In the community’s formative days, its namesake, Colonel Charles Sanford told the town’s founders, “I am flattered that you are naming the town after me. I hope you will consider naming the most prominent street after Dr. W.J. Hawkins, President of the Raleigh & Augusta Air Line Railroad.” (As a side note, Colonel Sanford was an employee of the railroad, making Dr. Hawkins, his boss.)
So right from its origins in the first official Sanford town plan of 1871, Hawkins Avenue held a prominent position. It was envisioned as one of the community’s primary residential corridors, in part, because many of the town’s most influential early leaders owned land there and built stylish homes in the Queen Anne tradition, along Hawkins Avenue. Here’s what Hawkins looked like, prior to paving, in the late 1890s.
Chief among Sanford’s founding fathers was Major John W. Scott. He owned the most land and was an active participant in laying out the town. Scott made it a point to purchase large parcels of land near to the railroad lines and built his home at 314 Hawkins Avenue around 1890. Many of the area’s most affluent land owners and leading businessmen followed suit. Scott was also instrumental in the growth of one of Sanford’s first manufacturing facilities, the Sanford Cotton Mill. This multi-building campus was built along the railroad tracks, a block away from Scott’s home. He was also a founding member and prominent financial supporter of the First Presbyterian Church, seen here in the mid-to-late 1910s.
Hawkins Avenue was among the first paved roads in Lee County and when the original US 1 Highway was routed along Hawkins Avenue, the street soon began its era as a popular upscale lodging destination for road travelers and visitors to the area. One of the first landmarks was this 12-room home, owned and operated by Mr. & Mrs. W.A. Maness. Known as The Hearthstone, the property endured for 6 decades before its demolition in 1970. It expanded to 36 rooms through 4 renovations in its lifetime.
Another of the many popular destinations was this boarding house operated for many years by Bessie Oliver at 107 Hawkins Avenue. The building was torn down several years ago and this address is now the home of the Suzanne Reeves Library, the flagship location for the Lee County Library System.
Finally, here are 2 more stylish locations that served as tourist homes in the 1930s and 1940s … the guest housing boom time in the United States. The Colonial Guest Home was located at 204 Hawkins, and owned and operated by the Gavin family. Mrs. W.R. Makepeace, whose distant relations lived on Hawkins dating all the back to its origins in the 1880s, operated a lodging establishment for many years named the Red Brick Tourist Home.
The Hawkins Avenue Historic District was formally placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
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.