Some Sanford Southern Hospitality

It’s hard to believe, but as we enter the month of August, it’s also one of those transitional times of year.  Some folks are fitting in last blasts of summer travel and family vacations. Others are already beginning to think about the implications and activities of the next upcoming school year.  We’ll have stories to share about schools and students in the weeks ahead. This week however, let’s make the most of our waning summer season by revisiting some places that offered accommodations here in Lee County for vacationers and other weary travelers.

We begin with the first destination named the Sanford Hotel. It was built in 1887, right near the railroad tracks on South Moore Street, near South Wicker Street. A wooden structure, this hotel met the same fate as many other wooden buildings, when it burned to the ground in 1891. This led to the second Sanford Hotel, a brick building, constructed in the early 1920s at the same location.

Hawkins Avenue in the general downtown footprint has been known as a place for elegant housing for over a century. Here’s a 1910 home with 12 rooms, that soon became known as The Hearthstone. By the time it was demolished in the 1970s, it had been renovated 4 times, expanded to 36 rooms, and had become a popular destination for travelers and boarders alike.

Today we’d probably refer to them as “Bed & Breakfasts.” “Tourist homes” were popular between the world wars and Sanford had several in its heyday. At this stylish home, owners rented out rooms to road-weary guests. The Lano Tourist Home opened as a tourist home at 507 Carthage Street in 1936. A short distance away was the Red Brick Tourist Home, owned and operated by Mrs. W.R. Makepeace, at the corner of Hawkins Avenue and Chisholm Street.

After World War II, tourist homes faded from view … replaced by lots of motels. America’s motoring public loved its travel, and enjoyed staying in roadside spots like this one, the colorfully named Rip Van Winkle Motel, on US 1.

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 proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to Sanford’s Railroad House Historical Association, Inc.