Sanford, Florida has a lot going for it, including an impressive collection of historic architecture, plenty of antique shops, and an ecclectic array of dining. Also, Sanford has an excellent waterfront along the banks of Lake Monroe. The city's history is tied to its steamboat industry which was huge in the nineteenth century. Today, however, Sanford has taken advantage of its proximity to the water in other ways.
The city has built up a Riverwalk area where you can hike or bike along the waterfront. Also, there are marinas, including the Marina Island which juts out into Lake Monroe. Several other attractions can be found along the waterfront, including Fort Mellon Park, which includes a splash pad and other amenities.
But this is a website about Main Streets and the heart of downtown Sanford is along First Street, which is Sanford's Main Street. The majority of the action will be along First Street between Oak Avenue to the west and Sanford Avenue to the east. You'll find some other busineeses on the sidestreets of Park Avenue, Magnolia Avenue, and Palmetto Avenue. In fact, where Magnolia Avenue meets First Street is Magnolia Square, a small pedestrian plaza where shops, cafes, and other businesses surround a fountain in a park-like setting.
Sanford is about 24 miles from Orlando, Florida and 36 miles from Daytona Beach. You can take exit 101C off of Interstate 4, for Florida State Road 46. Head east for about four miles. This turns into First Street, which is Sanford's Main Street.
Sanford, Florida's Main Street is First Street. We'll start our tour of downtown Sanford on the east side of First Street and head west. This building is known as the Bishop Block and was built for the owner J.N. Bishop in the Romanesque Revival style. It was completed in 1888 and for a while, in the early 20th century, the City Hall was located here.
Here is a view of the corner of First Street and Palmetto Avenue, along with another view of the Bishop Block. Next door you can also see the historic Fire Station that was also built in 1887 after a great fire swept through most of Sanford. The Fire Station served as the city's fire house from 1890 to 1974.
One of Sanford's assets is its waterfront. Sanford sits on the banks of Lake Monroe. If we take a slight detour and head north on Palmetto Avenue we hit Sanford's Riverwalk. This is a pizzaria that sits along the Riverwalk.
Here is another view of the Riverwalk. Behind it you can see a marina.
We head back down to First Street. This is a view of the southwest corner of First Street and Palmetto Avenue. The building is known as the Hotchkiss Building and was also built in the Romanesque Revival style in 1887 after the great fire that tore through the area.
Here is another view of the Hotchkiss Building. It once served for many years as a department store, but today it is home to multiple art galleries, including a folk art gallery. In fact, notice the front of the wall is itself a piece of folk art.
Here is a close up view of the wall, featuring various pieces of trinkets and baubles mixed in with the stucco, truly a unique find.
This is the Historic Sanford Welcome Center. It was once the U.S. Post Office Building, built in 1917 in the Classical Revival style. When a new Post Office was built nearby in 1962, the building became a library.
Construction of this building was completed in 1923. It was named The Meisch Building for John Meisch who was the president of the Sanford Investment Company for whom it was built. Many businesses occupied the building, including a Piggly-Wiggly.
Here's another view of the same block with The Meisch Building in the background. The City of Sanford provides plenty of signage to help orient visitors. The map shows folks where they are in relation to the businesses, the waterfront and Marina Island.
Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe is a nationally recognized German restaurant that people come to visit from all around. Today, you can see many people enjoying the weather eating outside.
Next door, at the corner of First Street and Magnolia Square is a book store.
To the left is Magnolia Square, a pedestrian only public square. Signage points to more shops down Magnolia Square and further down to Magnolia Avenue. The red buildings across the street are nearly twins built around 1910 but are not actually identical. If you look carefully they were built for different owners and have slightly different architectural details.
Here's another view of Magnolia Square. Notice the fountain in the middle. Also notice the Christmas Tree? Yes, these photos were taken around Christmas time. Further back is Magnolia Avenue. Magnolia Square is the pedestrian only portion of Magnolia Avenue.
This is a view of some of the shops and businesses, including a German Market in the background, along Magnolia Square.
At the point where Magnolia Square becomes Magnolia Avenue, we come to the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center. It originally opened in July 1923 as the Milane Theater where live dramas and movies were shown.
We come back out to First Street. On the left is Magnolia Square and ahead we can see a view looking further west on First Street.
This is another view of that same stretch looking closer in. Here we see a Greek restaurant and some other shops.
Across the street are some more shops, including some with furniture, antiques and other wares out on the wide sidewalk on display.
Here's an interesting find. A modern elevated walkway connects the two historic buildings creating a sort of breezeway between the two.
If we zoom in, we find there's a restaurant located underneath, so at least you have plenty of cover. There's even a bar if you look carefully on the back left-hand side. The restaurant is even named The Breezeway Restaurant & Bar.
This is another view of that same stretch of block. The breezeway itself is just off to the left.
As we continue walking west down First Street here is a shot of what looks like an old fashioned barber shop. This is a shot looking eastbound in the direction from which we came.
We now make it to the intersection of First Street and Park Avenue. This is the Brumley-Puleston Building. Contractor George A. Fuller, builder of the Lincoln Memorial and New York's Flatiron Building, started construction of this building in 1922.
Across the street on the same corner is the First National Bank Building No. 2 also constructed by George A. Fuller Company. Known as Sanford's first "skyscraper," the First National Bank was located here from 1923 to 1929. This building has been home to a bank continuously since 1938.
If there was a First National Bank Building No. 2, there had to be a No. 1 and this is it. This building was originally constructed in 1883 in the Neo-Classical style for the Lyman Bank. Today, you can see it is used as a cafe with office space on the second floor.
As we head further west on First Street the businesses become more sparce, although there are still some to speak of and the sidewalks and streets are still well-maintained.
Here's one last view looking off into the distance on First Street, which is also Florida State Road 46. This road eventually turns into a highway, which will take you to Interstate 4.
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Historic Sanford Welcome Center
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