FLORENCE, AZ – The Arizona Historical Advisory Commission has officially designated the 1891 Courthouse Renovation Project as a state of Arizona Centennial Legacy Project. On February 14, 2012, Arizona will celebrate its centennial statehood anniversary. Cities, towns and counties are planning a variety of events and celebrations to pay homage to the state’s first 100 years.
“In Pinal County, there is nothing more significant than the decision my colleagues and I made to restore the 1891 Courthouse and return it to use,” said Pinal County Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Pete Rios. “We are grateful that the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission has selected this as an official Centennial Legacy Project.”
Coinciding with this news, Pinal County has created a website so visitors near and far can keep tabs on the renovation project. Photos of the courthouse, its history, restoration and more will be updated regularly. There is even a place where people can sign in to add their memories of the courthouse.
The Board’s decision to renovate the courthouse replaces an earlier decision to build a 10,000 square foot building to house the county’s Human Resources Department as well as the remodeling Administration Building A to accommodate two more supervisors and staff. The anticipated cost of the earlier project was $3.2 million. The 1891 Courthouse, currently vacant, consists of 22,449 square feet of space.
“By using an additional $2.8 million of one-time money,” County Manager Fritz A. Behring said, “we can manage the expansion of the Board, preserve a landmark that we have responsibility to maintain anyway and take advantage of the lull in construction activity to get favorable pricing on labor and materials.”
By law, the Board of Supervisors has to expand to a five-member board now that the official US Census population has topped the expansion threshold of 175,000 residents. The current administration building does not contain the necessary office space for the new officials or their formal board meetings.
“The courthouse is a focal point for Florence and a focal point for Pinal County. It is an asset to the community and I have been an ardent proponent of seeing it used again,” said District 2 Supervisor Bryan Martyn.
“Think about the history – the trials, marriages, meetings, official actions. History was written there,” said Supervisor David Snider. “I’m pleased to say history will be written there again.”
When visitors come through the west entrance, they will immediately see the grand staircase brought back to its original design. To their right will be a gallery featuring historic photographs, papers, paintings depicting the rich history of the courthouse and Pinal County. The first floor will house the official meeting chambers for the five-member Board of Supervisors.
On the building’s second floor the original courtroom will be brought back to its 1891 glory. This area will be open for people to hold ceremonies, meetings and weddings. Plans call for public meeting space to also be available on the first floor for community groups to reserve.
Working with Pinal County on this historic project are the Town of Florence, the State Historic Preservation Office, Arcadis Engineering and Swan Architects. An oversight group made up of Pinal County officials, Florence historians and City Council members have worked for months to draw up a plan to renovate the building and make it useful for government business.
Future updates on the website will show video and photos of the demolition, construction and renovation as it progresses. There are two videos on YouTube already: