1891 Pinal County courthouse recognized for excellence in preservation

[Source: Bonnie Bariola, TriValleyCentral.com] – The 1891 Second Pinal County Courthouse Rehabilitation collected another honor Saturday as it received the Crescordia Award for Buildings and Structures/Historic Preservation. “We are so pleased to receive this recognition from Arizona Forward and from Governor Brewer,” Pinal County Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Steve Miller said. “Not only is it a functional county office building, it’s also a tourist attraction. Practically every business day we have tourists and history buffs stop in to see the building. They all remark about how wonderful it is to see this significant landmark restored and in use.”

The 33rd Annual Environmental Excellence Awards were presented Saturday at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale. Arizona Forward’s membership is diverse and includes Arizona’s most prominent large corporations and small businesses, municipalities and other government agencies, educators, nonprofits, and a host of concerned citizens. A professional panel of judges identified a maximum of two Awards of Merit and one coveted First-Place Crescordia winner in each category.

Arizona Forward’s members focus on a balance between environmental quality and economic vitality, helping to ensure that decisions about how residents will live tomorrow are made with foresight and imagination today. The courthouse was built in 1891 and is a remarkable example of the American-Victorian style of 19th-century construction technology on the Southwestern frontier. The courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered one of Arizona’s most irreplaceable historic properties. It is believed to be Arizona’s oldest government building in use today.

To rehabilitate it to serve as a modern office building for the Pinal County Board of Supervisors was no small task. Extensive planning and creative design were paramount to the sensitive integration of sustainable materials and high efficiency mechanical, plumbing, electrical and life-safety systems. Some of the key environmentally-friendly features include reused and recycled bricks, flooring, doors and windows; retrofitted original window frames with insulated low-emissivity glass; filtered roller shades to maximize daylight; strategically placed trees to maximize natural ventilation; low-water-use plumbing fixtures; and high-efficiency water heaters and lighting features, as well as a programmable lighting system. The 1891 courthouse is a physical reminder of the early development and maturation of Pinal County and is a symbol of pride to county residents and Florence. The courthouse attracts thousands of visitors each year, significantly benefiting local businesses.

Governor Jan Brewer awarded the renovation of the Historic 1891 Courthouse the grand prize at the Governor’s 2013 Historic Preservation Conference in June. Brewer and the Arizona Historic Advisory Commission had selected the courthouse renovation as a Centennial Legacy Project to celebrate Arizona’s statehood centennial in 2012.

Pinal County has compiled extensive documentation on the courthouse project and the history and lore of the building. To find out more about one of Arizona’s most distinctive historic public buildings, visit http://goo.gl/b9PRX.

Historic Silver King Hotel suite in Florence renovated, hoping to pull in an anchor

Mark Cowling/Florence Reminder

The town of Florence is hoping to draw a new downtown anchor business to the historic Silver King Hotel, which was repaired and reopened in 2009 with the help of the Heritage Fund.

The Arizona Heritage Alliance is a nonprofit organization that was formed in 1992 for the purpose of working to prevent the Arizona State Legislature from taking or eliminating the Heritage Fund. Since the Legislature has eliminated the portion of the fund going to historic preservation projects like this, the alliance is looking for ways to restore it.

[Source: Christina Sampson, Florence Reminder] –After weeks of renovations, the dust has settled and the most spacious business suite in the Silver King Hotel is ready for a new tenant. The town paid about $20,000 to install new sinks, a grease interceptor, a tankless water heater and to improve the air conditioning system, all in hopes of attracting a new anchor business to the building.

“We’re looking for an eating establishment or an eating and drinking establishment,” Jess Knudson, assistant town manager, said. However, he added, the space could accommodate a different business, too. “It also could serve as a real nice retail establishment,” Knudson said. The suite, formerly the location of Second Hand Rose, has now been vacant for months. The overall goal, Knudson said, is to get “a tenant that will attract more people to the downtown area.”

To that end, the space will be leased at a rate below market price and a budget has been established to help a new tenant make any necessary changes to the space. “We’re going to have some money set aside so when we find the right tenant for that space we’ll be able to talk to them about what improvements they want,” Knudson said.

The town purchased the hotel and renovated it into four business suites using $500,000 in grant funds and $250,000 in town funds. Knudson said when it purchased the hotel the town envisioned “bringing it to life and using it as a business incubator.”

Currently it is home to the Florence Fudge Company, the Silver King Hair Company and RZN8 (“resonate”) Media. “We were able to preserve a historic anchor downtown,” Knudson said.The suite’s future tenant will have more than just a newly renovated space, however.

Padilla Park

Plans to develop a park and social gathering space behind the hotel are well underway. At a June 17 meeting, the Florence Town Council approved the purchase of property located on Granite street for $32,500. The town hopes to combine the lot with property adjacent to the Silver King Hotel and turn it into Padilla Park at Silver King Plaza.

The park will feature “shade and social amenities” that could facilitate social functions and events, Knudson said. Professional landscapers will be solicited next, he said. The Silver King Hotel has metamorphosed several times since it was first built in 1876, when Florence was a mining town in every sense of the word. Its gabled roof made the L-shaped, adobe building stand out from the flat-roofed structures around it. It was renamed the Florence Hotel in 1890 but the main part of the building, on Main Street, was torn down after a fire in 1893.

Two years later, the red-brick building town residents are familiar with today was built, featuring a bar and restaurant on the first floor and 15 guest rooms. The hotel thrived, featuring a roofed balcony with canvas “sides” that could be rolled down to create outdoor sleeping “rooms” on hot summer nights and a stagecoach office.

In 1917, a second floor was added to the rear adobe wing that had survived the fire of 1893. The rooms were converted into low-rent housing and changed for modern building codes, such as the addition of a fire escape. Although the hotel eventually faded into history, the bar and restaurant survived until the 1970s. In 1995, a fire consumed the building, leaving only a bit of the adobe and brick walls. The rain did the rest on the adobe wing and eventually the walls began to dissolve and fall down.

Information about the suite can be found on the town’s website or by calling 868-7549.