City of Sanford, FL

Welcome to Sanford, Florida!

Sanford is a growing city with a population of 58,000, in close proximity to Interstate 4 and State Road 417, halfway between the attractions of Orlando and the beaches. Sanford sits on the south shore of Lake Monroe, providing a waterfront backdrop for walking, jogging or just enjoying the natural beauty.

Sanford, one of Central Florida’s oldest incorporated cities is well-known for its brick lined streets, towering oaks, elegant store-fronts and large, nineteenth-century Victorian homes.

Picturesque First Street, the center of downtown Sanford, is a vibrant, enticing destination. Our historic downtown showcases many unique shops, restaurants, art galleries an historic theater and a burgeoning micro-brewery and craft cocktail scene. Events, such as the Saturday morning Farmers Market, theatrical productions at the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center, and the monthly Alive After 5 street parties attract visitors from all over the Central Florida region.

RiverWalk, with its gazebos and swinging benches, has several miles of pedestrian walking paths. Along the way, you can visit Veterans Memorial Park, Marina Island, Ft. Mellon Park, the Sanford Museum, or dock your boat at our free marina day slips and have a great time in downtown.

The booming retail activity just west of downtown includes one of the largest malls in Central Florida, The Seminole Towne Center, as well as numerous retail enclaves surrounding it. One of the area’s largest congregation of auto and motorcycle dealers is located in this vicinity, as well.

Restaurants, movie theatres, bookstores and other service facilities are readily available “close to home.” Marinas at the Port of Sanford, at the Osteen Bridge and in Downtown offer boaters of every level ready access to Lake Monroe and the beautiful St. Johns River.

Sanford is also becoming a true destination, we are home to the Orlando Sanford International Airport and Amtrak Autotrain.

Sanford History

Sanford sits on the south shore of Lake Monroe at the head of the navigation on the St. Johns River. During the Seminole Wars of the 1830’s, the area was the site of an U.S. Army post name Fort Mellon. As settlers moved into the area, the town of Mellonville was established. With the advent of commercial steamboat service, the town became a distribution point for goods essential for the growth of Central Florida. Mellonville became the county seat in 1845 when Orange County formed.

In 1870, Henry Shelton Sanford purchased the land west of Mellonville. He planned a new city “the Gate City of South Florida,” which he believed would become the transportation hub for all of southern Florida. The City of Sanford was incorporated in 1877 and Mellonville was annexed six years later. In 1880, Henry S. Sanford formed a land company in London to encourage investments in the new city. That same year construction began on the South Florida Railroad with a terminus in Sanford. By 1884, Sanford was a prosperous town with wharves, a railroad station and a large hotel.

Mr. Sanford’s greatest interest in Florida was the development of Belair, a citrus grove and experimental garden near Sanford. More than 140 varieties of citrus, including the Valencia orange, were tested for adaptability to the Florida climate.

In September 1887, a bakery on First Street caught fire. The blaze spread rapidly through the wooden buildings on the east side of town until stopped by the volunteer fire department. When the town was rebuilt, the new structures were made of brick.

During the winter of 1894-95, the citrus industry received a serious blow when freezing temperatures destroyed the year’s entire crop. Many citizens faced economic ruin and left the area. Those who stayed harnessed artesian wells and developed a sub irrigation system that permitted commercial agriculture. By the first decade of the 20th century, Sanford was one of the largest vegetable shipping centers in the United States, and received the nickname “Celery City” for the most successful crop.

On April 25, 1913, Seminole County was officially established and Sanford designated, the county seat. In the boom and bust years that followed, Sanford shared in the growth of Central Florida.

From 1942 to 1968, the Sanford U.S. Naval Air Station drew many residents away from agriculture and brought new people to the city. Today the old station is Sanford’s International Airport.

We invite you to visit our historic city — bring a friend or two, there is much to see and do!