Monday, January 28, 2008

McFarland museum houses Florence's past

[Source: Scott Craven, Arizona Republic] -- Wander to the end of Florence's quiet downtown and you'll encounter a modest home that gives few hints about its historic standing. If not for the small sign declaring this McFarland State Historic Park, visitors never might know they are looking at what is likely the town's most significant structure. When the two-story adobe building was erected in 1878, Florence had grown from a trading post to the Pinal County seat. And it now had its courthouse, consisting of courtroom, judge's chambers, district attorney's office and, later, a jail and sheriff's office.

But as Florence evolved, so did the courthouse. Farmers, ranchers and recent settlers gathered within to do business or share the news of the day. The courtroom also served as a public dance hall - justice may have been blind, but it enjoyed a good time as much as anyone else. In 1891, the courthouse was transformed into the county hospital, and in 1938, it became the welfare and public-health offices. Its many roles are reflected in the exhibits. Floorboards groan underfoot as visitors enter the modest courtroom, where a small judge's bench sits against the back wall. A wooden, and very uncomfortable-looking, witness chair shares the dais. Two hospital beds occupy the next room. These are not the thickly padded beds of today's hospital rooms, but thin mattresses laid across metal supports. Medical instruments, with their sharp bits and blades laid bare, from the period are arranged neatly in a nearby display case.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Arizona Republic.]