By Mike Rosso
Florence, Colorado, neighboring the Arkansas River south of Cañon City, sometimes gets an undeserved bad rap. Having a federal prison complex on its outskirts, it is sometimes referred to as a “prison town.” It’s far from it. Having visited Florence a number of times over the years, I thought it might be fun to take a closer look at this small city with a rich history and dynamic future.
My first visit was city hall, and a meeting with newly elected mayor Keith Ore and City Manager Mike Patterson. Ore was selected as mayor pro-tem after former mayor Charles Giebler suddenly died in January 2013. Ore was then elected to serve a full term in November. Like many small cities in Colorado that once had a mining or manufacturing base, Florence has been challenged with a changing economy. There are no big box stores in the community, and the closest U.S. highway is several miles north of town. Even the Arkansas River, a tourist draw in towns like Salida and Buena Vista, is too far from downtown to have any appreciable effect on visitor numbers. In fact, Florence does not consider itself a tourist town, according to Chamber Director Barbara Folger. But Florence does have one very big thing going for it: antiques. In fact, Florence boasts the highest number of antique stores per capita in Colorado – a total of 18.