Florence AZ City Guide

Established in 1866 and situated on a terrace overlooking the Gila River, Florence has the distinction of being the fifth oldest town in Arizona. In 1866, Colonel Levi Ruggles, an Indian gent, laid out the town in its still distinctive pattern, and another Arizona town was born. Some historians believe the town was named for the sister of Territorial Governor Richard McCormick. The town became the Pinal County seat, and by 1880 the population climbed above 1,000. The town’s business center kept pace with this growth and, by year’s end, some 28 saloons lined Main Street.

Wildflowers. Desert Marigolds near Florence off Arizona Highway 87.

FlorenceLike many a town in the old Arizona territory, Florence had its share of colorful, “Wild West” moments. In fact, the town was the scene of the “Six-gun Classic,” one of the most famous gunfights in Arizona history. In 1881, a feud developed between County Sheriff Pete Gabriel and Josephus Phy, his former deputy and friend. On May 31, Phy paused Hollywood-like at the swinging doors of the Tunnel Saloon, spotted Gabriel drinking whiskey at the bar, then walked in shooting. Despite being hit twice, the sheriff returned fire and mortally wounded Phy. Gabriel recovered and lived for another 10 years.

Set in the Sonoran desert near the Picacho Mountains, Florence is home to about 8,800 residents today. The sidewalk overhangs and false front stores give the town an authentic Old West feel. The Historic District boasts over 100 turn-of-the-century homes that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


McFarland State Historic Park is the location of the first Pinal County Courthouse and site of historic trials. The park also exhibits artifacts and photos describing life at the WWII POW camp near Florence, one of the largest in the U.S. (928) 868-5216.

The Pinal County Historical Museum houses a items from the area’s colorful history, including prehistoric Indian artifacts and hangman nooses from recent prisoner executions. (928) 868-4382.

In the Historic District, pick up a walking map of historic homes at the Pinal County Visitor Center (520-868-9433).


Blue Mist Motel
40 S. Pinal Parkway (Hwy. 79)
(928) 868-5875

Inn at Rancho Sonora
9198 N. Hwy 79
(928) 868-8000

Desert Gardens RV Park
(928) 868-3800


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