Florence Town - 1
(Florence, Arizona, USA)
Just after I came out of the town of Tucson, I noticed that gasoline was about to run short. I had planned to go to Phoenix via Biosphere 2. I thought that I would find a gas station soon. But, it was too optimistic.
On the way of 50 km to Biosphere 2 was a gated city but I could not find an ordinary town with a gas station. After the Biosphere tour, my car started to Phoenix with a faint hope, but, on both side of a road, only a dreary semi-desert dotted with a cactus went on and the gate of a ranch appeared rarely. Arizona was such land.
When I drove a car for 80 km and a gasoline meter touched zero, a town appeared. It was Florence.
I expected nothing except gasoline. But, when I started driving again, I noticed a sign which indicated a historical district. What kind of place is it ? I entered into a quiet street.
Florence with a population of 20,000 is located in a wilderness at a distance of 80 km from Phoenix. The town was founded in 1866 and developed in collection of agricultural products and a silver mine. Now, nine prisons, an migration institution and a reformatory form a part of the industry.
The historical district occupies 3 blocks on both side of about 300 meter main street. About 100 buildings are designated as the national cultural assets.
In the district, neither a townscape built by the same style nor the masterpiece in the architectural history are not seen. It is a town which accumulated the prosperity of various architectural styles for the common people which should be called as another architectural history during the period from the middle of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. The Florence Historical District is the outstanding example of an ordinary town which is typical and no special in the Southwest at the beginning of the 20th century.
Now, what kind of place is an ordinary town ?
Through the entire circulation of the town, I felt deja vu. It is resembled to the density sense of a residential area sequestered from the main street in an urban sprawl area in Japan.
Though it is a country town which has enough land, neither the site of a residence nor a house in the site are large, so, when a house is disposed in the site, it is difficult to secure an so-called American-style big garden in the rest of the site. Ms. Jennifer Evans, who is involved in revitalization of the town, said that the smallness of a house is related to building material supply which had been restricted due to a remote district until the opening of a railroad. The rest of the site had been used for raising livestock and cultivating farm products for private use. Such origin seemed to be related to the present state. It is rare to see gardening common in American suburbs and the rest of the site is vacant. Moreover, a road with 18 m wide is too broad for the size of a residence site.
The building density is not high to call as a townscape and is not distant to call as a village. Florence is equivocal between both. So, it gives an impression of an urban sprawl which expanded disorderly. However, the sense might be peculiar to Japanese.
In brief, Florence townscape has been quiescent already before the second half of the 20th century when urban sprawl accelerated, and the historical district is located not at suburbs but at the center of the town. This loose state is for sure a sense typical to an ordinary town in the Southwest. This is a locality of Arizona and the Southwest.
A unique block, which is deviating from such low density townscape, is an small shopping street with about 150-meter long. Only in this block, buildings stand close and are crowded. It is contrastive with a low density residential area on the back side. It is weird that such gap of the building density exists between the adjacent blocks.
Even if there is neither pedestrian nor traffic now due to hollowing-out of the downtown, the shopping street is lined with historical buildings built of brick or finished with terra cotta like the memory of once prosperity.
The commercial buildings designated as the national cultural assets were constructed between the 1880s to the 1910s and belong to the Victorian style or the revival style of the classic architecture. But, most are one-story building with a narrow frontage and a small facade, and then, a wooden arcade is attached like a forelock in front of the facade. So, the buildings get loveliness unrelated to the exaggeration of brick.
1 hour by car from downtown Phoenix.
1.5 hour by car from downtown Tucson.
"Historic Florence Walking Tour" (Florence Main Street Program)
Jeniffer Evans(Florence Main Street Program)
2018.01 Photos and text in English version and Japanese version
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