Florence is in Pinal County midway between Phoenix and
Tucson. Colonel Levi Ruggles, an Indian agent, staked and platted
the town in 1866. Sources cite different origins for the town's
name, but all agree it was someone's sister or daughter. By the
1920s, the area had become the agricultural center of the county.
The Florence business district is still on Main Street and, aside from
the obvious improvements, downtown remains much as it must
have been in the 1880s. Both visitors and residents appreciate the
diversity of the community. Florence offers the convenience and
lifestyle available in a small western community, yet is only 45 minutes
away from the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas.
Incorporated in 1908, Florence, at an elevation of 1,493 feet, has
been the county seat since its formation in 1875.
Florence is home to both the Pinal County government complex
with 1,500 employees and the Arizona State Prison with 1,700
employees. Agricultural products from the area include cotton, cattle,
grains, and grapes.
In January 1987, Florence was selected for inclusion in the Main
Street Program sponsored by the National Trust for Historic
Preservation. This public/private partnership program assists businesses
in design and promotion, with the ultimate goal of economic
revitalization for the central business district. Because of the year-round sunshine and ideal climate, Florence is the perfect place for the retired. It is excellent for those seeking a warm, clean air area for health purposes.
As the fifth oldest town in the state, downtown Florence has been
designated an official “Historic District.” It is said Florence has more
buildings listed on the National Register than any other town in
Arizona. Some of the notable historic sites are the first and second
county courthouses, both completely different in architectural style.
The first was built in 1877 and is open to the public as McFarland
State Park. The second was built in 1891 of American-Victorian
architecture and is still in use today. The fully restored Brunenkant
Building, built in 1889, serves today as the Greater Florence
Chamber of Commerce. The Pinal County Visitors Center, formerly
located in the historic Suter House, is now located at 330 E. Butte.
Pinal Pioneer Parkway, a portion of U.S. 79 south of Florence, contains
a unique natural garden. Virtually all species of Arizona desert
flora are displayed and identified along the main route and easily
accessible side roads. The Tom Mix Monument, commemorating
where the popular movie cowboy died in 1940 when his Cord auto-mobile
crashed, is located on the parkway. Since 1932, Florence has been the home of the world's oldest Junior Rodeo in the United States. It is held every Thanksgiving weekend.