Florence, Arizona

Florence is most noted as being the home of the largest Arizona State Prison complex: between the county, state and federal governments and private corporations, there are 9 operating prisons in Florence. During World War II, there was even a large prisoner of war camp just north of Florence and it housed mostly German and Italian prisoners taken during the North Africa campaign.

Florence is also known for the number of planned housing developments under construction and on the books: maybe 20 within town limits and 30 within the Florence Planning Area.

One of the oldest towns in Arizona, Florence was founded in 1866 about midway between Tucson and Phoenix. There are more than 130 buildings in Florence that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, most of them in the downtown National Historic District. In spite of all the modern housing subdivisions around Florence, the city has preserved the downtown area pretty much as it was when it was first built. When stagecoaches were a main mode of travel, Florence was on the main line between Tucson and Phoenix, but when the Interstate Highway grid was being built, Florence was bypassed.

The Arizona Trail passes just to the east of Florence. Also just north and east of Florence is the Box Canyon, Gila River, Cochran and Coke Ovens recreation areas. Cootonwood Canyon Road and the Desert Wells Multiuse areas are further north of Florence off State Route 79. Further north is the Superstition Mountain Wilderness. State Route 79 itself is the Pinal Pioneer Parkway: designated as a scenic desert byway and preserve in 1961. 2 miles south of Florence you can catch the Florence-Kelvin Highway: 10 miles of pavement leading to 22 miles of well-graded gravel. This road travels east to State Route 177 and offers great views south into the Sonoran Desert.

Pinal County Courthouse in 1938
Pinal County Courthouse in 1938