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Crossroads Series — Sanford, Florida on Lake Monroe

Sanford, Florida sits on the south shore of Lake Monroe, a large bulge in the St. Johns River–Florida’s longest river.  The City of Sanford has a population of around 55,000 people.


Land was bought to build the city in 1870 by Connecticut native Henry Shelton Sanford.  The land purchase started out at 12,548 acres, ending up today with 26.5 square miles, or roughly 17,000 acres of land.

Mr. Sanford believed his city’s proximity to the St. Johns River would become a key hub for transportation.  He was soon proven right by the construction of the South Florida Railroad from Sanford to Tampa.

In later years and decades, this has continued to be the case.  The advent of Orlando-Sanford International Airport for air travel, and the southern end of the Amtrak AutoTrain were later added.

By car, Sanford serves as the intersection of U.S. Highway 17/92 (an 89-mile conjunction of Highways 17 and 92), as well as Florida State Road 46.

Not surprisingly, a city with this caliber of historical significance has a hub.  Sanford’s main downtown artery is East 1st Street with its collection of bars, restaurants, museums, shops, and art galleries.  Downtown also features a fountain adjacent to its intersection with Magnolia Avenue.  Adding a nice touch to the district is a mixture of old-fashioned and more creative architectural finishes.

Magnolia Square Fountain Sanford Florida
Magnolia Square Fountain
The finished wall of a downtown shop.
The finished wall of a downtown art gallery.

State Road 46

Westbound: East 1st Street morphs into State Road 46 at the intersection with Highway 17/92 a few blocks outside of downtown.  Taking SR 46 a little under 25 miles to the west, you’ll find the quaint antique shops, lakes, and rolling terrain of the small town of Mount Dora.

Eastbound: State Road 46 takes a slight jog south joining with Highway 17/92, before making an easterly turn at East 25th Street.  Out of Sanford, SR 46 is a mostly quiet route before ending at U.S Highway 1 in the town of Mims.  Mims, south of the City of Titusville, is very close to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.

U.S. Highway 17/92

Southbound: Exiting Sanford, 17/92 very quickly hits the City of Lake Mary and a seemingly endless series of places before getting into 17/92’s largest city, Orlando.  Its history can be appreciated.. At one time, it was the link between Orlando and Sanford before the 1960s, including the age where family vacations and motels were popular.  Historic towns along this 20 mile stretch to Orlando include Longwood, Casselberry, Maitland, and Winter Park.

Northbound: Leaving Sanford, 17/92 curves and begins to parallel Lake Monroe and the city’s Riverwalk, a linear park with walking and biking trails, benches, and terrific views of Lake Monroe.  Once Riverwalk reaches its conclusion, 17/92 takes on an Old Florida look for a few miles until its intersection with Interstate 4, with undeveloped lakefront land throughout, an old fish camp building, and the wooded entrance to the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens.  Fishermen taking advantage of the lake’s great bass fishing serve as another common site.  The historic City of DeLand is less than 20 minutes north on 17/92.  DeLand serves as the home of Stetson University as well as the northern splitting point of Highways 17 and 92.

Sanford Riverwalk in Sanford Florida
Sanford Riverwalk and Veterans Memorial Park

Interstate 4 and State Road 417

Unlike U.S. Highway 17/92 and SR 46, which are the main north-south and east-west paths, respectively, Interstate 4 and State Road 417 are located on the fringes of town and were built decades later.

Interstate 4 was built as a faster alternative to Highway 92 from Tampa to Daytona Beach.  In most places, Highway 92 and Interstate 4 stay within 10 miles of each other.

Westbound: Interstate 4 is a 20-mile drive to downtown Orlando, 30-35 miles to Orlando’s theme parks, and 100 miles to Tampa.  It’s an interesting drive for anyone who doesn’t mind traffic.  It also features the peripheral attractions around Disney and the other parks.

Eastbound: Interstate 4 towards Daytona Beach is closer to its 1960s beginnings as an Interstate highway.  The venture around the western shore of Lake Monroe north of Sanford is an interesting one for lovers of sub-tropical vegetation.  30 more miles marks the end of Interstate 4, and the beginning of Daytona Beach with its famous beaches and standing as the center of today’s NASCAR.

State Road 417 is a late 1990s, early 2000s-built toll road.  Built to relieve interstate traffic, 417 loops around the east end of Orlando ending on Interstate 4 just southwest of Sanford.

For good alligator viewing, head south on State Road 417 where the highway crosses a 1.5-mile long bridge over Lake Jesup.

Other Sanford Points of Interest:

  • Sanford Residential Historic District  A primarily residential district added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, with classic 1920s bungalows and brick tree-lined streets.  The district is immediately south of downtown, bordered north-south by 3rd Street and 14th Street, and east-west by Sanford Avenue and Elm Avenue.
  • Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium This 1951-built baseball park is on Mellonville Avenue just southeast of downtown.  The current field saw baseball legends Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays on its diamond.  For many years, it served as the spring training facility for the New York Giants and Atlanta Braves. 

  • Veterans Memorial Park Veterans Memorial Park juts out into the waters of Lake Monroe.  Memorial bricks mark the ground commemorating those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  Additionally, bricks can be found for current and former military personnel.  The park is located at the end of Park Avenue north of downtown.

For a look at more Sanford photos, please click here to visit the Take the Highway Photography Facebook page.

Please feel free to comment in the box below with questions and comments.  In addition, your experiences and insight on Sanford are welcome.

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