The location of Depot Park, on the grounds of the Railroad House and the old railroad depot, was a natural choice. Once the hub of Sanford economic activity, this area of downtown had been neglected for many years; as a result, the DSI Board felt that a park located in this area could bring downtown an economic engine of its past. In 1997, through the joint vision of the City of Sanford and DSI, the concept of Depot Park was born. The Railroad House, the Railroad Depot, and most importantly, the surrounding land presented a unique opportunity to create a space where people could come together downtown to meet, to play, and enjoy themselves for the day.
Phase I of Depot Park was completed late in the summer of 2001. This portion of the park includes a brick bandstand, a lawn seating area that accommodates approximately 750+ people, brick-banded sidewalks, decorative lighting, ornamental fencing, and benches. Phase II of Depot Park was completed in the spring 2005. Components of Phase II include an interactive splash fountain with a large landscaped open area surrounding it, public restrooms designed to conform architecturally with the rest of the park, continuation of the ornamental fencing, an information kiosk, decorative lighting, a landscaped parking area, and streetscape along Carthage St. bordering the park. Phase II also made improvements to an existing play area which houses a historic locomotive popular with children of all ages and the Railroad House, the only historical museum of Lee County.
Today, Depot Park is a true urban park representing the cultural, communal, and economic center of downtown. The park serves as a gathering place for both scheduled events (concerts, patriotic rallies, etc.) and leisure activities. Many times during the day, people can be found in the park eating lunch, playing in the fountain, or reading a book. With the incorporation of the Railroad House Museum housed in the Sanford Railroad House, historical education is also an important component of the park.
The park draws over 50,000 visitors a year, many of whom will spend dollars at the businesses bordering the park. No single element has benefited the most from the Park than the business expansion that has occurred with the properties bordering the park, including an antique store, three restaurants, and several office spaces. Many business owners have said that the new Park played a major role in their location decision. The construction of Depot Park is a significant beginning to inviting people to the downtown area for a variety of purposes. Over 130 years later, the location is once again a cornerstone for downtown and the city.
Pilgrim’s of Sanford Agricultural Marketplace
The Sanford Farmers’ Market was relocated to downtown in the Spring of 2020 due to COVID-19. Since the move, consumer traffic has increased exponentially, with an average of 400+ patrons visiting on a typical Saturday morning, tripling the number of visitors at its former location. Interest and momentum have intensified for farmers, consumers, small business owners and local stakeholders around the development of a permanent and sustainable location for the market.
From the overwhelming success and support of the market, The Pilgrim’s of Sanford Agricultural Marketplace was born with funding provided by Pilgrim’s of Sanford, the City of Sanford and the County of Lee. Other private pledges from the Ruby and Ernest McSwain -Worthy Lands Trust and the Lee County Farm Bureau bring the total to $748,000 to renovate the old King building on Charlotte Avenue. With support from other local partners, Downtown Sanford, Inc., N.C. Cooperative Extension – Lee County Center, Sanford Area Growth Alliance, Visit Sanford – TDA, the venue will be branded as the signature agricultural marketplace in the Sandhills region, a cultural epicenter for the community to celebrate its rich heritage and diversity through food and fellowship.
Click here for more information on the Marketplace project.