Sanford has a long connection to military history that began with the creation of Fort Mellon, a U.S. Army post during the 2nd Seminole War in the late 1830’s. Fort Mellon originally began as Camp Monroe, built on Mellonville Avenue. In 1837, Captain Charles Mellon was killed in an attack on Camp Monroe by the Seminoles and the Fort was renamed to honor the fallen Captain.
Fort Mellon had three satellite forts, named to honor two officers who died during the Second Seminole War and the territorial governor who presided at the convention that drafted Florida's first constitution. To the south a second garrison was established as Fort Reid named after Robert Raymond Reid. The Army built a fort across Lake Monroe from Fort Mellon near present-day Stone Island named Fort Kingsbury to honor Lt. Charles E. Kingsbury. Fort Lane was located on Lake Harney, along the St. Johns River, and was named in honor of Capt. John F. Lane. The Seminole War-era officer is credited with inventing the Army's use of pontoon boats for bridges.
In 1866, the Forts were abandoned but Mellonville became the gateway for settlers and immigrants. In 1942, the Navy established a base for the Naval Air Operational Training Command in Sanford. A municipal field was already in existence west of the town. Sanford deeded 865 acres to the Navy,who then purchased an additional 615 acres to complete the project. Naval Air Station Sanford opened and was in operation during World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Cuban Crisis, and the war in Vietnam.
In 1942, Naval Air Station Sanford opened and was in operation during World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, and the war in Vietnam. The Orlando Sanford International Airport is located on the site of the station.
The Greater Sanford Regional Chamber of Commerce, at 400 East First Street, was built to serve as a USO during World War II and its exterior has minor changes from its original appearance. The flagpole in front of the Chamber of Commerce stands in the mouth of Sanford’s old city cannon. When Seminole County was formed in April 1913, the city cannon, Beelezebub, was overloaded and exploded upon firing. The pieces were salvaged and later donated by the local Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) chapter to hold the flagpole.
The Sanford Museum, located at 520 East First Street, has a permanent exhibit about Naval Air Station Sanford, the General Joseph Hutchison collection and research collections for the air station and Fort Mellon. The Orlando Sanford International Airport has three exhibits about Naval Air Station (NAS) Sanford. A panel display and showcase are located in the Arriving Flights/Baggage Claim area of the terminal. The NAS Sanford memorial is on Red Cleveland Boulevard near the main entrance to the airport and at the end of the main runway. The memorial is laid out around a restored RA-5C Vigilante airplane, the last type of aircraft to fly out of NAS Sanford.
The Pathways to History tours are continuing to evolve as more research is conducted, check back periodically for updated information.