Early Commercial Development
First Commercial Buildings
Quite naturally, early commercial development in Sanford occurred adjacent to the rail lines which were the cause for the town's existence, with a somewhat greater concentration of buildings to the east along what is now Chatham Street.
Little is known of the buildings erected prior to 1900, but it can be surmised that many were:
- Frame construction
- One or two stories in height
- Rapidly replaced by more substantial buildings of masonry construction
- Susceptible to destruction by fire
Rapid Commercial Growth
Branson's Business Directories for the years between 1878 and 1896 reveal the rapid growth of the commercial life of the town, so that by the latter year, there were well over thirty merchants and tradesmen listed as operating businesses in the town.
Specialization of merchandising had begun, as there were jewelers, druggists, milliners, and furniture stores. However, the majority of concerns still were classified as general stores.
The 1908 Sanborn Insurance Company maps show a brick furniture store and bank and a bottling works on the northeast side of the intersection of Chatham and Charlotte streets, a site on the southeast corner of that intersection to be occupied by the Sanford Buggy Manufacturing Company (#84), and a number of one and two story frame and brick structures ranged along Chatham Street.
West of the tracks, there stood several buildings along Moore Street between Carthage and Wicker streets, including a post office and the Bank of Sanford Building, which also housed the Opera House (both destroyed).
Along the same block of Steele Street were several frame dwellings, a stable, and a marble yard. Moving from west to east on the north side of Carthage Street at the time, one encountered the Graded School and Baptist Church at Steele Street and the Episcopal Church at Moore Street.
Railroad Passenger DepotAt the center of a triangle created by Chatham, Moore and Carthage/Charlotte streets and crisscrossed by the three rail lines stood the railroad passenger depot (#81), with a frame freight depot several hundred yards to the southeast.
The passenger depot is a handsome brick building with the typical heavily bracketed, wide flared overhang on its red tile, hipped roof. Its facade is distinguished by a central gable with a palladian window.
This building and the nearby Railroad House (#80) serve as a natural ‘focal point for the district.
Unfortunately, few if any of the buildings associated with these early business ventures survived much beyond the turn of the twentieth century. Surviving commercial buildings from the first decade of the twentieth century are typical of those being built in small towns everywhere at the time.
Examples include the former bank and drug store (#91) at the corner of Chatham and Mclver streets, notable for its corbeled cornice and segmental arch window openings on the north elevation, and the adjacent five-bay commercial building (#92) with its coved metal cornice.