There’s no doubt that the City of Sanford and Lee County are enjoying a bit of a business renaissance, but the overall character of the downtown is much different than it was over a century ago. In those days, manufacturing was the community’s big calling card. Let’s look back at some Sanford’s big business names of the past.
Cotton and textiles have always been a pivotal part of the economy of central North Carolina. Our first picture is of the Sanford Cotton Mills, which was founded right around 1900. One of its most popular products was a bed sheeting line called Father George. At its peak, the company had approximately 250 employees. This building was lost to fire in 2002.
The next large building from the East Sanford Industrial District was the home of the Moffitt Iron Works from 1888 into the first part of the 20th century. This is at the corner of Market and Maple. Years later, the property was taken over by the Roberts Company, a textile manufacturer.
A few years before Moffitt opened for business, the Sanford Sash and Blind Company was founded. Major John Scott and John Makepeace, who also played significant roles in the development and early growth of Sanford, were the founders in 1882. They used timber wood from the area to make blinds, sashes, doors and dressed lumber.
For a large part of the 20th century, this downtown Sanford building on the other side of the tracks was one of the region’s biggest employers. Founded as the Fitts-Crabtree company, this manufacturing plant became Sanford Furniture Company in the 1930s. In 1940, the company acquired the old buggy factory building. Shortly afterward, the buggy factory was converted to manufacture products needed for World War II. Today, of course, the Buggy Factory has earned awards for its renovation and is the home of the Sanford Area Growth Alliance (SAGA), among other businesses and organizations.
Finally, here’s a look at the warehouse district in downtown Sanford in the early 1950s. In this bustling era, businesses were busy creating a wide range of goods, and these buildings stored the products. Endor Street and Wicker Street were the heart of the warehouse district.
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.