Archeologists and ancient historians have done a lot of research in the land of ancient Carthage — one of the world’s earliest recorded urban civilizations in North Africa and the western Mediterranean between 300 and 700 BC. Here in Lee County, we have our own “ancient Carthage” to share with you — a look at origins of a Carthage Street in downtown Sanford you would barely recognize. Our first stop is the Weatherspoon Building. Built in 1897 and home to numerous retail operations for over 4 decades, this building used to sit across the street from where the Railroad House presently resides.
Here’s a beautiful home that used to exist across the street from a long-standing downtown Sanford landmark. If you look at its size and rustic lot you would never believe this residence of S.D. Jones, a Sanford merchant in the early 20th century, was situated across the street from where the Temple Theatre is today.
This is another Carthage view that is hard to imagine today. In around 1910, this is what the intersection of Carthage and Steele Streets looked like, with the First Baptist Church on the corner and the Sanford Graded School situated off in the distance.
If we move ahead to around 1923, we see automobiles on the street and a firmer pavement. The house on the left would soon be torn down in order to build the aforementioned Temple Theatre. The water tower off in the distance is where the Railroad House is today. Imagine what you would see if you stood in that spot today. What a difference a century makes!
Let’s return to that intersection of Carthage and Steele for a closer look at the Sanford Graded School. This private school was in existence from 1906 to 1925. That year, this building was sold at public auction and was eventually torn down and replaced by a gas station.
Finally, we’ve mentioned the Temple Theatre a few times in this time capsule, but did you know there was another popular theater located on Carthage Street from 1920 to 1954? The SanLee began life at 212 Carthage as the L-Ma Theater and looked like this in 1932. Sadly, the theater met its untimely demise in a destructive fire in September 1954.