BLOG #21 SERIES #9
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
FLORENCE – COLORADO’S ANTIQUE CAPITAL
MAY 23, 2018
Connie and I have continued to speculate whether or not we should take a day off and visit this self-proclaiming antique capital for ourselves. Another influence is the Mountain States Collector, because it features a full-page ad celebrating Florence’s two dozen antique shops in every issue.
Finally, the perfect May day arrived, and we headed south on Interstate 25, stopping at our favorite Cracker Barrel restaurant, in Colorado Springs, for a late breakfast, en route. Then we took Highway 115 southwest through miles and miles of gates into Fort Carson military base.
At one of the antique stores in Florence I discovered that the May/June issue of Colorado Life was featuring the town, so I bought one to help flesh out this blog. The article was written by Matt Masich and photographed by Joshua Hardin, and titled, “Old Stuff Brings New Life to Florence, Antiques Capital of Colorado.”
In it, I learned that Florence was a boom town in the nineteenth century—not silver or gold driven, but oil and coal. By the 1890’s, it was producing up to 824,000 barrels of oil annually. But then, after World War I, the boom years came to an end, and the town began to die. But even the 1994 coming of a massive federal prison (the nation’s highest-security prison, dabbed the Alcatraz of the Rockies, housing the likes of unabomber Ted Kaczynski, 9/11 conspirators, Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols, etc.) didn’t help bring in new residents.
It took something unusual to save the town. In 1994, Patty and Dean Dixon opened an antique mall on Main Street. Peg Piltingsrud moved back home from out of state about the same time. She decided to open another antique store. Then, others were persuaded to gamble on Florence’s future: people such as Kit Lamborn, Martha Manley, Barry and Barb Brierley, Keith and Elsie Ore, etc. The biggest store in town is the Loralie Antique Mall, owned by the well-known quilter known as Loralie—Connie spent years making a king-sized Loralie quilt, so it was a special treat to wander through Loralie’s quilt shop.
These two-dozen pioneers have gradually brought life back to the frontier town. Judging by the difficulty we had finding an open parking space, I’d say those new pioneers have accomplished a near miracle.
Florence is now alive and well. Come and see for yourself!