[Source: Mark Cowling, Florence Reminder] — Town officials, historic preservation advocates and officials of W.E. O’Neil Construction Company gathered Monday morning to celebrate the beginning of the second phase rehabilitation of the Silver King Hotel at Main and Ruggles streets. Kilvinger and other speakers expressed appreciation for the FPF and IDA for their work over the years to save historic buildings. “Thanks to the IDA, who first made this a historic town, and one of the premier historic towns in the state,” Kilvinger said. As for the Silver King, “We will work as hard as we can to make this a success,” she added.
[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Florence Reminder. Pictured: Bonnie Bariola presents Jess Knudson, the town of Florence’s Silver King project manager, with a plaque to display in the finished building.]
[Source: Arizona Republic] — The town is hoping the historic Silver King Hotel will be ready for an occupant by the end of the year. Twelve contractors have submitted proposals to complete renovations on the hotel, and the town wants an aggressive construction schedule. The hotel was a center of local social life for 100 years until it closed in 1977. The Florence Preservation Foundation bought the building and 12 years ago was awarded a $500,000 federal grant. The money was used to stabilize the building and put on a roof, windows and doors. The town bought the building from the foundation last year.
[Source: Daniel Dullum, Florence Reminder] — Traditionally, IDAs exist solely as fundraising conduits. In 1968, the Florence IDA established its own independent approach that also includes land ownership and involvement in historic restoration. The IDA’s list of accomplishments is impressive. It includes restoration of the Suter house, the Brunenkant Bakery building and the building that houses Total Concept. They helped build Jacques Square, financed facades, and helped establish the Townsite Historic District.
And, when McFarland State Historic Park faced closure, the IDA prepared a comprehensive resolution that helped keep the park open in perpetuity. “We’ve done a lot within that 40 years,” Florence IDA president Peter Villaverde said. “I’m sure we’ve spent close to $2 million for various projects, starting with the Visitor’s Center, which is now going to be the Main Street headquarters. “My project is Jacques Square. We purchased that for $20,000, the town participated, the community participated. … The developer who restored what is now Total Concept was really impressed by what the community can do when working together, and donated the watering system for the trees.
[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Mark Cowling, Florence Reminder. Pictured: The reconstructed Cosmopolitan Saloon, one of the Florence IDA’s many accomplishments.]
[Source: John Collins Rudolf, Zonie Report] — The steady gaze of Earnest McFarland, who in the mid-20th century served Arizona as a U.S. senator, governor and state supreme court justice, looks down on every visitor to the state park that bears his name, a restored frontier courthouse in dusty Florence, built in 1874. “We will never be perfect in our government, but high ideals can predominate,” reads a brass plaque beneath the portrait, quoting one of McFarland’s favorite sayings.
Yet perfection is hardly the word that comes to mind during a tour of McFarland State Historical Park. Massive cracks stretch from floor to ceiling on more than one of the building’s original adobe walls. A support beam braces a crumbling exterior wall, keeping the wall and sections of roof from collapsing. In another room, which over the years served variously as a jail, county hospital and prisoner-of-war camp, caution tape warns visitors to avoid a gaping hole in the floor. “McFarland did a lot for this state and this community, and I think he would be very saddened if he saw the condition of this building today,” says assistant park manager Terri Leverton. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Daniel Dullum, Florence Reminder] — Six more homes in the Florence Historic District have received their own commemorative markers as part of an ongoing project of the Historic District Advisory Commission. “We really appreciate the town supporting getting more markers,” H. Christine Reid of the Pinal County Historic Museum said, “because when there’s more markers, it helps everyone realize the historic value of these buildings. They have a story behind them, not just a blank facade.
“People lived in them, they contributed to this area’s history.” Special markers were erected to honor the historic homes of prominent early Florence residents Elmer Coker, John Keating, William Jennings, George Brockway, John Zellweger and Dr. William Harvey. Reid explained that the Historic District Advisory Commission started the annual home tour originally to raise funds to purchase the markers. “Since then, the home tour has been delegated to other entities, so we’ve had to get funding from the town,” Reid said. “It takes about a year to get all the information gathered. At the museum, we use our archives and files to help document the information.”
[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Daniel Dullum, Florence Reminder. Pictured: The historic Elmer Coker House.]
[Source: Florence Reminder] — The town this summer will once more look for a contractor to complete rehabilitation on the historic Silver King Hotel, in hopes the slower economy will generate more affordable bids. Also holding down costs will be the town’s intention to leave the interior mostly unfinished, so a tenant may tailor it to his needs. An architect is at work on the revised plans, town officials said. When the town first sought proposals for completing the hotel’s restoration a couple of years ago, the bids came in at more than $1 million, which was double the available funding.
During a walking tour of the downtown historic district last Thursday, Town Manager Himanshu Patel told the gathering of about 40 people the finished project will be a “shell-type building” which can then be leased for retail or offices. The town’s ultimate goal remains “a viable reuse of the building and a vibrant downtown,” Patel said. Last year, the town had some discussions with three partners who were interested in completing the old hotel at Main and Ruggles for an Irish-themed restaurant and sports bar. But town officials “don’t foresee them coming to the table anytime soon” and believe “we need to pick up the pace,” Assistant to the Town Manager Jess Knudson said this week. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Florence Reminder] — The Florence Main Street Program has been accredited as a 2008 National Main Street Program for meeting the commercial district revitalization performance standards set by the National Trust Main Street Center®. The Florence Main Street Program joins over 700 other Main Street revitalization programs being recognized as 2008 National Main Street Programs. Each year, the National Trust Main Street Center and its coordinating program partners announce the list of accredited National Main Street Programs around the country that have demonstrated their ability to follow the Main Street methodology.
“We congratulate this year’s accredited National Main Street Programs for meeting our established performance standards,” says Doug Loescher, Director of the National Trust Main Street Center. “Rebuilding a district’s economic health and maintaining that success requires broad-based community involvement and support, in addition to establishing a solid organization with sound management that is committed to long-term success.” The National Trust Main Street Center works in partnership with Coordinating Main Street Programs throughout the nation to identify the local programs that meet the National Trust Main Street Center’s ten basic performance standards.
[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Florence Chamber of Commerce.]
[Source: Mark Cowling, Florence Reminder] — With only his hands-free walkie talkie interfering with his old-time proprietor’s attire, Bruce Woodmansee tells home tour visitors about his family’s work to restore the historic Mandell Department Store during the 23rd Annual Tour of Historic Florence last Saturday. The family, which owns and operates True Value Hardware, is considering opening an ice cream and sandwich shop in the Mandell building. The Woodmansees’ restoration included plumbing the building for a potential restaurant, and saving the original woodwork as much as possible.
[Source: Daniel Dullum, Casa Grande Valley Newspaper] — Every stop on the 23rd annual Tour of Historic Florence has its own unique history, and the Truman-Randall House (pictured) is no exception. The original owner, Pinal County Sheriff W.C. Truman, became a celebrity when he and his posse were credited with the capture of notorious stagecoach robbers Pearl Hart and Joe Boot in 1899. The second owner, Dr. Wallace Randall, was well known not only in Florence but throughout the state of Arizona. His murder in 1922 was front-page news and is still the subject of debate and speculation. The Truman-Randall House, currently owned by attorney Michael Villarreal, can be viewed as part of the Tour of Historic Florence on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The self-guided tour begins at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, 291 N. Bailey St. in downtown Florence.
It’s the first time since 1993 that the Truman-Randall House has been on the tour. “Personally, I’m really excited about it because I’ve never been in there, and because of all the history with Sheriff Truman and Dr. Randall,” H. Christine Reid, Pinal County Historical Museum public relations director, said. “I drive by that house all the time and I’ve always wanted to see what it looks like inside. From the articles I’ve read from when the house was on the tour many years ago, it looks just beautiful, so we’ll be in for a treat.” During the Tour of Historic Florence, visitors will have an opportunity to tour private homes and public and commercial buildings featuring various architectural styles, including Sonoran, Early Transitional, Late Transitional, American Victorian, American Bungalow and Mission Revival. Some buildings on the tour date back to the 1870s and 1880s, when Florence was the hub of activity for area silver mines, ranches and farms. The oldest structure on the tour is the Chapel of the Gila, 306 E. Eighth St. Built in 1870, Chapel of the Gila is also central Arizona’s oldest church. While mentioning recent home tours held in Mesa and Gilbert, Reid said, “These other towns don’t have what we have. Very few towns other than Tucson and a few other places have the Sonoran row houses, adobe houses and commercial adobes.
[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Town of Florence.]
[Source: Scott Craven, Arizona Republic] — Wander to the end of Florence’s quiet downtown and you’ll encounter a modest home that gives few hints about its historic standing. If not for the small sign declaring this McFarland State Historic Park, visitors never might know they are looking at what is likely the town’s most significant structure. When the two-story adobe building was erected in 1878, Florence had grown from a trading post to the Pinal County seat. And it now had its courthouse, consisting of courtroom, judge’s chambers, district attorney’s office and, later, a jail and sheriff’s office.
But as Florence evolved, so did the courthouse. Farmers, ranchers and recent settlers gathered within to do business or share the news of the day. The courtroom also served as a public dance hall – justice may have been blind, but it enjoyed a good time as much as anyone else. In 1891, the courthouse was transformed into the county hospital, and in 1938, it became the welfare and public-health offices. Its many roles are reflected in the exhibits. Floorboards groan underfoot as visitors enter the modest courtroom, where a small judge’s bench sits against the back wall. A wooden, and very uncomfortable-looking, witness chair shares the dais. Two hospital beds occupy the next room. These are not the thickly padded beds of today’s hospital rooms, but thin mattresses laid across metal supports. Medical instruments, with their sharp bits and blades laid bare, from the period are arranged neatly in a nearby display case.
[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Arizona Republic.]