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.

Just a few examples of what Heritage Fund has done for Florence

[Source: Bonnie Bariola, TriValleyCentral.com] – For those of you who do not remember, it is thanks to the town of Florence that many of the historic buildings on Main Street have been saved over the years. Through a voter initiative, in 1990 the Heritage Fund was approved by the voters of Arizona. Among other things, this fund provided $1.7 million a year toward historic preservation through a competitive grant process.

Prior to approval of the Heritage Fund, Florence’s Historic District Advisory Commission had been approached by a member of the local Knights of Columbus asking if the Commission supported the rehabilitation of the Chapel of the Gila. The Commission wholeheartedly supported this effort.

Upon receiving the initial criteria for applying for a Heritage Fund, the town’s Community Development Director determined the rehabilitation of the Chapel of the Gila would be a perfect fit. The Knight’s of Columbus member was contacted and the result was a public/private partnership between the town and the Diocese submitting an application — the town prepared and administered the grant and the Diocese provided the matching funds.

The fact that the grant application for the historic Chapel of the Gila ranked first in the first round of Historic Preservation Heritage Fund Grant applications should be mentioned. It should also be noted that before construction began, due to extreme rainfall in the spring, the east wall of the chapel collapsed. Since funding was in place it was possible to save the building; otherwise, it would have been necessary to demolish the entire building. The chapel is always one of the most visited buildings on the annual Tour of Historic Florence.

Clarke House: The William Clarke House has been saved due to the efforts of several organizations and people. Lois Stryker headed a group which put a roof on it prior to the town submitting the first Heritage Fund grant for it’s rehabilitation. Donovan Kramer Sr. then agreed to assume ownership of the property and provide the match for the grant, and the nonprofit Florence Preservation Foundation (FPF) volunteered to assume the administration of the grant. After several additional Heritage Fund Grants and many, many thousands of dollars from Mr. Kramer, this very important building on Main Street is now home to the Florence Reminder and Blade Tribune.

Silver King Hotel:
 Only with the Heritage Fund, the town of Florence, and the Florence Preservation Foundation are the people of Florence able to have the Florence/Silver King Marketplace as one of the most important buildings on Main Street today. In addition to Heritage Fund Grants and donations, it was necessary to find additional funding for this massive project. Transportation Enhancement Funds could be used for Historic Preservation but were only available to government entities. To obtain funding from this source, the FPF partnered with the town of Florence to obtain these funds. Over the years the Florence Preservation Foundation members prepared two separate applications totaling one million dollars with Town Council members approving these applications being submitted.

Each of these $500,000 grants required a $30,000 match. The town of Florence provided the match for the first grant with economic development monies it had received from the State of Arizona. A Heritage Fund grant written and submitted by the FPF provided match for the second $500,000.

McFarland Park: More recently the town assumed operation of McFarland Historic Park in order to have an additional tourist attraction for both visitors and local residents. State Parks used a portion of the Heritage Funds allocated to them to rehabilitate the building that houses the Park. Once that was completed in 2009, Jay Ream, Assistant Director of Arizona State Parks was asked what the plans for McFarland Park were.His reply was “Due to the extreme budget cuts to the parks system, the only use for McFarland is to lease it for an adaptive reuse.” This message was relayed to Town Manager Himanshu Patel, resulting in the Town Council approving a lease between the town and Arizona State Parks.

The Florence Main Street Board agreed to operate the park in addition to already operating the Florence Visitor Center. Again, after Heritage Funds made possible the rehabilitation of the building, due to a partnership between Arizona State Parks, the town of Florence and the Main Street Program, yet another building on Main Street is open to the public.

In 2010 when the Historic Preservation portion of the Heritage Fund was suspended by the Legislature, Florence had a total of five grants valued at $650,000 which were canceled or suspended. With the required matching funds, 1.3 million dollars would have been added to the local economy and five additional historic properties would have been saved.

Won’t you please contact the governor and your legislators and ask them to reinstate the Heritage Fund.

Silver King Hotel in Florence begins rehab

[Source: Casa Grande Valley Newspapers] – – Town officials, historic preservation advocates and officials of W.E. O’Neil Construction Company gathered Monday morning to celebrate the beginning of the second phase rehabilitation of the Silver King Hotel at Main and Ruggles streets in Florence. Mayor Vicki Kilvinger and other speakers expressed appreciation for the FPF and IDA for their work over the years to save historic buildings. “Thanks to the IDA, who first made this a historic town, and one of the premier historic towns in the state,” Kilvinger said. As for the Silver King, “We will work as hard as we can to make this a success,” she added.

Historian, John A. Swearengin, recalled what a welcome sight the Silver King was to his sunburned family when they arrived here in July of 1936. He became a regular visitor to the hotel; the family that ran it included two young ladies with whom he went to high school. Swearengin also recalled attending a birthday party “in this room in 1938.” He further expressed thanks to the town of Florence for buying the building last year from the FPF and taking an active role in its future. “I’m delighted and pleased to see the town join with us to make the completion of this job possible.” [Note: to read the full article click here.]

Historic hotel in Florence Arizona to get overhaul

Over the years, there have been several rumors of overhauling the structure but nothing came to life until now.  The historic building will get a complete makeover by the end of the year, say officials with the town of Florence, which owns the building and is paying for most of the renovations with more than $500,000 in grants.  The building won’t turn into another hotel but will instead be revamped into retail and office space, Florence Public Information Officer Jess Knudson said during a recent tour of the structure.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]