There’s been a lot of talk about “infrastructure” in the news of late, and here in Sanford and Lee County, we are already in the midst of steady economic growth and revitalization. When our country was in the midst of serious economic throes nearly a century ago, the federal government and administration of President Franklin Roosevelt undertook a number of ambitious programs in an effort to get the country and its economy back on its feet. Several projects could be viewed as infrastructure activities of its time.
One of the most notable concepts was the Works Progress Administration. The WPA was conceived as a relief program that would temporarily put unemployed workers on the government payroll to improve the quality of life in communities across America. In theory, by paying to build public structures for local cities and towns, the workers, communities and eventually, the federal budget would all benefit.
Sanford and Lee County was one of the many beneficiaries of WPA projects, starting with a new post office that served the community in that role from 1937 into the 1960s. After its decommissioning as a post office, the structure was repurposed as a federal office building and office location for city and county agencies, and in 2018 became the present-day home of the popular La Dolce Vita Pizzeria restaurant.
In its tenure, the WPA built over 5,900 schools, 2,500 hospitals and 13,000 playgrounds across the country. Recreation was a core part of the WPA projects. Here in Sanford, this baseball stadium was built with WPA manpower in the late 1930s. Named Temple Park, in honor of local major leaguer Will Temple, the stadium was located at the corner of Seventh and McIver, and served as the home of the Sanford Spinners minor league team in 1940s.
The WPA was also responsible for the creation of this Park Avenue Pool complex, which served the community admirably from the 1930s into the 1970s before its demolition. This is the area where the Kiwanis Children’s Park is now located.
Our final stop in this tour of municipal landmarks that were built with federal resources in the 1930s, is actually a project that was undertaken by 2 other federal agencies. The Sanford Municipal Golf Course construction was initiated by the Civil Works Administration, and completed by the Emergency Relief Administration in 1934. The actual layout of the course was done by legendary golf course creator Donald Ross. The clubhouse opened a few years later in 1936.
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.