Kierstin Phillips

Sanford — the city we know and love — is full of hidden gems that even locals may not know about.

Kierstin Phillips, Photographer

Just off the south shore of Lake Monroe sits Sanford, “the gate City of South Florida.” Founder Henry Shelton Sanford believed his town would become the new transportation hub for South Florida. From 1877 to present, Sanford has aged with new businesses, restaurants, and even a few ghost stories.

In September of 1887, a bakery on First Street caught fire and rapidly burned down the wooden buildings on the east side of town. These buildings were then replaced by the beautiful brick buildings that still line First Street. The Hotchkiss Building, for example, was built after the fire as a department store before it was turned to a home for folk art galleries. The outside wall of the building is a piece of art itself as it displays multiple trinkets and carvings in the stucco.

First Street also holds culturally diverse businesses. Nationally recognized German restaurant, Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café, sits right next to a small bookstore on the corner of First Street and Magnolia Square. Along Magnolia Square are also a German market and a Greek restaurant called Zorba’s.

Depending on the holiday, special events are also played out to get everyone in spirit. Christmas parades and Halloween nights are always enjoyed during that special time of year. You can find out more about these special events and the annual events on the City of Sanford website.

In such an old town, it only makes sense for there to be a few local ghost stories. Wop Hop’s Brewing Company, originally Stoke’s Fish Market, is home to five spirits according to a few mediums who have visited. There have been paranormal reports of cold spots, apparitions, and dogs who do not like being in the beer garden out back.

Right next door to Seminole are two historic cemeteries, Paige Jackson and Shiloh Cemetery. At Paige Jackson Cemetery, people report cold spots, uneasiness, odd noises, and shadowy figures. Down the dirt road of Paige Jackson is Shiloh Cemetery. At night, people hear strange noises and see eerie lights and some say a female spirit wanders the cemetery.

You can explore these places for yourself and find other places in historic Sanford or just appreciate the buildings on the Destination Main Streets. To further enjoy this beautiful town, the city of Sanford hosts many events to bring its community closer together. Farmer’s markets, art walks, and block parties are hosted monthly on the weekends. Sanford holds many hidden gems in its cracked and ancient roads. So, look it up, dig into the history, you’re sure to find something interesting.