Hanson was founded in 1869 on a fifty acre tract donated by Judge Robert Eastwood and Rev. Roland Gooch to the Henderson and Nashville Railroad (now the Seaboard Railroad). Hanson was named in honor of Henry B. Hanson, a civil engineer who worked for the railroad and plotted the town. A passenger and freight depot was soon built adjacent to the tracks and Hanson became a shipping center for area farmers. By the 1880s, Hanson was bustling community of over one hundred residents with six tobacco factories, sawmills, a hotel, a bank and many frame stores along Main Street.
In 1889, a fire swept through the commercial district and most of the existing structures. The commercial area was soon rebuilt with one and two-story brick and frame buildings. The present appearance of the Hanson Historic District dates from this time period of rebuilding in the 1890s and early 1900s.
With the decline of passenger and freight service in the 1930s the prosperity of the town decreased. Over the next several decades the major tobacco and roller mills in the community either burned or were razed and many of the commercial buildings also were razed. Despite these changes in the community, a tightly grouped collection of late 19th century historic buildings continues to be the commercial center of the town. Today, there is renewed interest in the community to preserve and restore this block of buildings.