By John DiDonna
Photo by JP Photography
I f one takes a stroll down Oak Avenue in Sanford, they will notice a stunning home on the corner of 5th street. Dating back to 1894, it serves as one of the historic district’s only bed and breakfasts, The Higgins House. In the last few years, the home was purchased by Lisa Hurt, the great granddaughter of James Corcoran Higgins, who moved into the home in 1902. She credits this to the type of quirky coincidences that “make you believe in angels.”
“At the urging of a cousin, I saw the Higgins House from the outside, found it breathtakingly gorgeous, and immediately made arrangements to see the inside. I still remember the wonder and delight I felt sitting in the living room — it was love at first sight!”
This love continues with all the guests who flood into this Queen Anne style home, since almost every weekend is booked solid. Visitors come from up and down the eastern seaboard. Those visiting family in the area, Europeans flying into the Sanford Airport, and folks travelling on the auto-train. Each one has gone away impressed and delighted both by the bed and breakfast and by Sanford as a whole. As Lisa explains:
“Sanford is a wonderful, welcoming community to be part of. It’s a hidden gem that is slowly — almost 100 years from its initial heydays — being re-discovered as a place to come live, vacation, explore and enjoy a variety of offerings.”
Most importantly, the guests all vow to come back. In this Lisa has seen many of her dreams for the Higgins House already coming true — repeat guests who go from an initial one-night stay to a multi-day reservation on their return to the area.
With her spirit of “a rising tide lifts all boats,” the notion of more overnight accommodations in the downtown area is something the Higgins House owner looks forward to with a sense of comradery rather than competition.
“I can’t wait for the Mayfair Hotel to be re-opened and other hotels to come online. It will increase our ability to become a destination of choice for those seeking a delightful vacation spot,” Lisa adds.
Guests to the Higgins House can bask in the rich history of the area and the home itself. At varying times, it has been a private residence, a boarding house, apartments, and at one point even sat empty — gaining a reputation as a “Haunted House.”
It was not until the early ’90s that the house was lovingly renovated into a bed and breakfast. Since then it has had a series of owners, most recently Mike and Patty Ribera, who did extensive renovations to the kitchen, landscaping, and added a bathroom. All ready for it to return at last to the Higgins’ family itself.
Lisa has added pieces donated by Higgins’ descendants, including a baby grand piano, and hopes to create a museum documenting her family and its history in Sanford. The home is also a showcase for talent with a series of house concerts, collaborations with Sanford based Phantasmagoria, and events throughout the year, including ice cream socials, Sunday brunches, and whisky tastings.
Lisa Hurt loves being a sort of “ambassador and concierge” for Sanford and has many dreams for not just her business, but for Sanford as a whole.
“My dream for Sanford is that it once again have a reputation on the world-stage as a place to come and have a truly relaxing and wonderful vacation as a gateway to beautiful, natural wonders and an easy commute to — or escape from — the excitement of the theme parks.”
John is one of the City of Sanford’s “Social Media Ambassadors”, as well as the director/ producer of Victorian performance troupe “Phantasmagoria”. He calls Sanford home, and resides with his wife and their ghost in a truly “haunted” home just below the historic district.