Restoration of historic Arizona mission south of Tucson advancing

[Source: The Associated Press] – – The White Dove of the Desert is living up to its nickname again, its west tower refurbished, resplendent in a dazzling white finish once more.  The tower at Mission San Xavier del Bac emerged just before Christmas from the scaffolding that restoration workers had being using _ like a butterfly shedding its cocoon, said architect Bob Vint, who spearheaded the five-year, $2.5 million project.  Now, it’s on to restoring the east tower of the 226-year-old Roman Catholic church, which is still an active parish for southern Arizona’s Tohono O’odham Indians. Its towers are visible for miles, and their restoration is intended to ensure that the structure remains intact.

“The interior of the mission is what it’s all about,” said Vint. “All of this exterior work is being done to protect the interior.”  The mission, sometimes called “the Sistine Chapel of the United States” and the “White Dove of the Desert,” is considered the finest example of Spanish colonial architecture in the country. The walls of its Byzantine-influenced interior are ablaze with frescoes, a religious gallery of work painted directly on its walls by missionaries two centuries ago. [Note: to read the full article click here.]

New grant for historic Pinal County courthouse

[Source: Florence Reminder] — Pinal County received a new grant to continue repairs on the historic Second County Courthouse.  This new grant for $150,000 from the Arizona State Parks Historic Preservation Heritage Fund will be matched with $225,000 from Pinal County.  The county hopes to use the funding to repair the dormers, chimneys, frieze (area between the roof and wall), porch and dissolving brick.  County officials are working with the architect to prepare plans and hope to go out for bids by February or March.

Final rehab nearly complete for Florence’s Silver King Hotel

[Source: Florence Reminder, Bonnie Bariola] — The front page of the April 14, 1977 Florence Reminder and Blade Tribune was devoted to an article about the purchase of the Florence Hotel by Norm and Bonnie Conkle, who were going to rehabilitate and reopen the hotel.  The article states, “As envisioned by Conkle, the new Silver King Hotel will not only be a beautiful place for tourists to stay, but will be a tourist attraction itself.

The hotel was operating until the day Conkle purchased it.  At that time it was the oldest operating hotel in Arizona.  It catered to silver and gold entrepreneurs, cattle barons, and many of Arizona’s earliest statesmen. Unfortunately, the Conkle’s plans did not materialize and over the next two decades the building suffered extreme deterioration.

During those two decades Bill Coomer was constantly telling his wife, Katie Montaño, that “someone” needed to do something about the hotel.  Katie finally told him that instead of talking about it, why didn’t he do something. Unknown to Katie, Bill created the private nonprofit Florence Preservation Foundation (FPF) in 1993.  He also wrote a Heritage Fund grant application to be used toward the rehabilitation of the hotel.  In addition he wrote a letter to Ed Bass asking for his assistance with the project.  Once the grant application was funded, he shared with Katie what he had done.  Had she not “shamed” him into doing something, the building probably would have been razed since this was what a lot of people thought should be done with it.  [Note: to read the full article click here.]

Arizona archives get new, upgraded home

[Source: Mary Jo Pitzl, The Arizona Republic] — No more grandma’s attic for the state’s important papers and keepsakes.  Instead, the new Archives Building is a technological and climate-controlled wonder, especially when compared with the nearly 100-year-old space that housed everything from the original state Constitution to Wyatt Earp’s extradition papers.

The $38 million Polly Rosenbaum History and Archives Building, which opened late last fall, is being dedicated next week at a ceremony open to the public. It’s named after a long-serving lawmaker who was devoted to historic preservation and has already been dubbed “the Polly building.”  [Note: to read the full article click here.]