A City With Stories To Tell: Florence, Colorado

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railroad car
This wooden box car was made in 1898 for the Florence & Cripple Creek RR
Image: Wikimedia

Antiquing enthusiasts and history buffs alike will be enamored by the charm of Florence, Colorado. Fewer than two hours from Denver and about thirty minutes from Colorado Springs, the town has seen its fair share of struggles. Once a hub for the oil business, it weathered economic turmoil for decades before undergoing a renaissance. Known today as the Antiques Capitol of Colorado, Florence’s reputation draws visitors from afar to explore its charming shops. But there is much more to uncover beyond the antique stores. Cultural landmarks steeped in history and scenic byways highlighting local artistry come together to paint a fascinating portrait of this city.

Florence, Colorado: Oil Boom, Bust, and Revitalization

With the oil boom of 1881, rapid business growth and flourishing neighborhoods came to Florence. But during the Great Depression, businesses shut down, and jobs disappeared. So did life within this once-thriving settlement. After years of economic decline, Florence’s fate seemed sealed as storefronts shuttered and prospects dwindled.

In the 1960s, cheap rent for empty storefronts and steady tourist traffic to the Colorado Mountains began to attract antique dealers. Now boasting more than twenty antique stores (and growing), Florence has the state’s highest number of antique stores per capita.

As tourism grew, the town invested in infrastructure upgrades and tourism marketing, luring new commerce and tourists. The community-driven effort has paid off, turning Florence’s fortunes around. With an array of antique shops dotting Main Street and tasty regional cuisine on hand at the many restaurants, this once-dreary area is now bursting with life.

florence colorado historic district
The Florence, Colorado Historic district
Image: Wikimedia

Florence: The Antiques Capitol of Colorado

This small town may be known for its charming bed & breakfasts and antique shops, but it offers much more than just window shopping. Its title as the Antiques Capitol of Colorado is well-deserved; the selection of artifacts pulls browsers from one curious item to another. Shopping becomes an intellectual journey.

What aspects of Colorado history intrigue you? Is it the migration of early pioneers from Spain, Mexico, France, and the Republic of Texas? How about the diversity of fossils from the Paleozoic period or economic development by ranchers, farmers, miners, oilmen, and railroads? Perhaps you’re interested in Native American culture or legends of the Wild West. As you browse the shops of Florence, you’ll find relics reminiscent of these periods.

As you wander through the quaint streets of Florence, Colorado, take a moment to look beyond the storefronts and soak in the incredible history surrounding you.

Cultural And Historical Sites Near Florence, Colorado

There’s no shortage of ways to enrich your understanding of this town’s unique place in America’s story. Immersive heritage tours showcase how early settlers made their homes here during Colorado’s heyday as an oil hub. Breathtakingly preserved examples of Victorian-era architecture will also transport you back in time.

There are two must-visit destinations for any history buff. The Florence Pioneer Museum and Research Center offers a glimpse into the town’s early days as a mining hub through its impressive collection of artifacts. Visitors can peruse old photographs, vintage clothing, and a jail cell from the late 1800s.

Meanwhile, in nearby Cañon City, the Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center provides exhibits on geological formations and Native American history alongside tales of infamous Wild West characters who traveled the area.

Railroad building
The Denver Rio Grande RR Building
Image: Jasperdo Flickr

Special Antiquing Consideration: The Frontier Pathways Scenic Byway Arts and Antiques Tour

In the United States, scenic byways are bestowed with a prestigious National designation, signifying their exceptional features. These routes are tourist destinations due to their unique and vital characteristics. By following a byway’s path, one can embark on a journey through the history of the West filled with tales of American Indians, trappers, explorers, pioneers, miners, farmers, and developing cities. But this region’s well-preserved high-country ranches and pristine meadows set it apart.

The Frontier Pathways Scenic Byway Arts and Antiques Tour follows the Byway through the breathtaking Wet Mountain Valley. It connects the towns of Florence and Westcliffe. This two-day/one-night itinerary allows you to explore the treasures of Colorado’s Antique Capital and be absorbed by the artwork that fills the galleries of Westcliffe.

This tour allows antique enthusiasts to marvel at the cultural heritage embedded in these charming old mining towns. From rustic farmhouses with unique architectural features to rare antiques waiting to be claimed, there’s something for everyone here. This tour is certainly worth the time investment as visitors will experience an unforgettable experience that will leave them forever enriched.

Stay A While: Bed & Breakfasts, Hotels, And Restaurants In Florence, Colorado

For as small as Florence, Colorado (population ~4,000), they have a variety of restaurants to suit your tastes. American-style steakhouses and Japanese cuisine are available, as well as family-style dining and pub food. When your taste buds crave Italian, you’ll be delighted with Papa’s. Of course, mornings are best when started with a cuppa joe from the Pour House Coffee Shop.

You’ll find cozy and affordably-priced bed-and-breakfasts and an array of hotels and motels in and around Florence. You can book a designer loft, a farmhouse, a cottage, or a standard hotel with amenities.

Whatever you choose, you’ll be well-fed and cozy in Florence, Colorado.

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