If you’re a student of local history, you’re aware of the background of what has become the Jonesboro Heights section of Sanford. And if you’re a current observer of things, you’ve probably made note of recent developments in the area, including new retail outlets, the impending MINA Charter School of Lee County due to open in less than a year, and the recent purchase of the Kendale Shopping Plaza. While we’re anticipating where the Jonesboro section is headed, this week we’ll revisit the places it’s been.
The community of Jonesboro was laid out near a high spot on the Western Railroad around 1860, and was named after Colonel Leonidas Jones, who played a role in much of the area’s railroad construction at that time. Jonesboro was formally recognized by the state of North Carolina in 1871 — 3 years before neighboring Sanford became an official community. The 2 villages had similar characteristics and populations. Jonesboro actually had more residents until before the start of the 20th century. Both communities boasted vibrant, close-knit downtowns and a focus on their local railroad station. Jonesboro’s (seen here) was based at the intersection of Raleigh and Fayetteville Streets.
Main Street has always been a main thoroughfare for Jonesboro. In the early 1900’s the street was made of dirt and boasted a succession of leafy trees along its walkways. By the 1930s, automobile travelers shared the road with billboard advertising. In the 1940s, Jonesboro Feed & Seed, the Jonesboro Lee Drug Store and Lloyd’s Hardware were retail mainstays.
By consensus of the governing bodies of both communities, Jonesboro and Sanford merged in 1947. By this time, Sanford had over 3 times as many citizens and much more industry and commerce. Most area residents saw more advantages than disadvantages in pooling their resources. Still, and to this day, Jonesboro retains a distinctive identity. This final look is of Main Street in the 1950s, and reveals the Center Theater, the Avent & Thomas Departments and many other businesses.
Editorial content, pictures and research background , compliments of Jimmy Haire and Images of America: Sanford and Lee County, by Jimmy Haire & W.W. Seymour, Jr, available here for purchase. All book proceeds go to Sanford’s Railroad House Historical Association, Inc.