Our Original “Chambers of Commerce”

We’re heading in to the holiday season and for a lot of folks, thoughts begin to turn to “shopping season,” in all it’s modern-day forms. Long before the days of Black Friday sales, Cyber Mondays, the internet and big box national retailers, our area’s commerce was locally-based and economically strong. With the big holiday shopping season just around the corner, let’s take a look at some of the very earliest commercial businesses and retailers that made their mark in Sanford.

Our area first gained notice when the state government authorized construction of a railroad line in the area after the Civil War. The train depot was the first building of note, built in 1872. A year later, McIver’s Store was founded. Located at the corner of Chatham and McIver Streets, it quickly became the leading general store in the entire region. Folks from neighboring towns and outlying areas, made it a point to get many of their provisions there. Our first picture this week shows what NcIver’s looked like in 1883.

Just before the turn of the last century, the Weatherspoon Building was constructed at the corner of Carthage and Hawkins. It was a leading location for retail for nearly half a century. Throughout it’s lifespan, the Weatherspoon building was home to a large variety of businesses. The occupants were known to turn over a bit over the years, but a steady retail presence was always a constant.

Factories and manufacturing companies began to spring up beginning in the 1880s as well, drawing on nearby resources and residents to create viable businesses. Here we see the location of the Sanford Sash & Blind Company, founded in 1882. They manufactured household goods such as doors and blinds from local lumber, and used their close proximity to the railroad as an effective way to get raw materials into their shops and finished products on the path to their customers.

The Moffitt Iron Works Company was founded a few years later in 1888 and was an essential part of the East Sanford industrial area from its location at Market Street and Maple Avenue. Like the other locations we’re visiting, this factory served the company for several years, at one point serving as a manufacturing plant for textile machinery.

The Sanford Cotton Mills was one of the region’s most prolific businesses and employers for much of its 6 decades in existence. Founded in 1900 by Major John W. Scott, who was one of Sanford’s founding fathers and developers, the manufacturing campus included a large warehouse building, a 2-story mill building, 5 additional mill houses and boarding house for employees. In the mid-1930s, it was said that roughly 20% of the Sanford workforce was employed at the mills. Located in the 100 block of East Chisholm Street, right behind Major Scott’s home on Hawkins Avenue, the mill closed in 1955 and burned down in 2002.

Finally, let’s conclude this tour with a building that is still in good use today. The old Sanford Buggy Factory, is now home of our modern day Sanford Chamber of Commerce, as part of the Sanford Area Growth Alliance (SAGA). Downtown Sanford Inc, and other businesses and government agencies call this building “home” as well. This landmark building began life, as its name implies, as a place where carts and buggys were manufactured. During World War II a third floor was added to the building to increase the number and variety of goods that needed to be manufactured for the war effort.

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.

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