Florence is located 60 miles southeast of Phoenix, Arizona and 70 miles northeast of Tucson, Arizona. Situated along the Gila River in the Sonoran Desert, Florence is conveniently located to a variety of outdoor recreation activities. Cultural attractions are abundant and give the visitor a sense of the area’s history, from the earliest Native American residents through Florence’s days as a rowdy western town.
historic downtown boasts unique, locally owned shops and
restaurants that cater to residents and visitors alike.
History of Florence
Florence was established in 1866 by Colonel Levi Ruggles, who moved to Arizona after the Civil War as an Indian Agent. He later served as a Territorial Legislator and helped establish Pinal as the state’s fifth county. Agriculture was the major economic base until Florence became the government seat of the newly formed Pinal County and silver was discovered at the Silver King Mine in 1875. Over the ensuing years, Florence played an important role as a regional administrative center. All federal land transactions for Southern Arizona were conducted in Florence until the Federal Land Office moved to Tucson in 1881. An early and prominent figure in Florence’s history was Charles D. Poston, known as the Father of Arizona. Poston encouraged Congress to create the Arizona Territory and was the territory’s first elected delegate to Congress.
Another milestone in Florence’s history was the canal boom in the 1880s which enabled water from the Gila River to be diverted for irrigation. Over time, farming and ranching again played a major role in Florence’s economy. The Florence Junior Parada began in 1932 when local ranchers held the rodeo to raise money for the Children’s Milk Fund. Today, the Florence Junior Parada is the oldest sanctioned youth rodeo in the world.
The Arizona State Prison moved to Florence in 1908 replacing the Territorial Prison in Yuma. Inmates
travelled from Yuma by train to build the prison and lived in the surrounding desert during its construction. The oldest buildings at the prison complex are the Administration Building built in 1928 and Cellblock Two (CB-2) which was completed in 1930. The gates leading into the Central Unit were brought to Florence from the Yuma Territorial Prison.
Through its history, Florence’s architecture evolved from rustic Sonoran
adobe brick buildings to the Modern Movement. Florence is noted for
its collection of adobe buildings, the earliest dating back to 1868.
All of the architectural styles that existed in Territorial Arizona
can be found along the streets of Florence today. The most
spectacular landmark in Florence is the 1891 Pinal County
Courthouse. The 1891 Courthouse is an excellent example of
American Victorian architecture which reflected the County
Supervisors' commitment to continued growth and prosperity in Pinal County.
The weather in Florence is mild for much of the year. During the Winter months, expect daily high temperatures to range from 60 to 70 degrees with occasional periods of rain. Daily lows temperatures range from 30 to 40 degrees, occasionally dropping below freezing. Spring and Fall are usually warm and dry with highs in the 80s and 90s, lows in the 40s and 50s. Daily highs during the Summer months frequently exceed 100 degrees with the possibility of dust storms and thunderstorms. Always carry at least one gallon of water per person during the summer months.