Florence (1873, 5,187 feet) was founded by James McCandless, who named it for his daughter. Eleven years earlier, oil bubbling to the surface of Oil Creek had inspired Alexander M. Cassidy to dig a well. He found the first oil field in the Rocky Mountain West and supposedly the second in the country. At one time 75 wells pumped 3,000 barrels of crude oil daily, and Standard, United, and other national firms had storage and processing facilities here. Until it ceased production in 1988, Oil Well No. 42 (1889), north of Florence on Cyanide Avenue, was said to be the oldest continuously producing commercial well in the world. Continental Oil Company (Conoco), which started here as the Arkansas Valley Oil Company, still dominates the skyline with its refinery stacks. Oil wells, coal mining, and a nearby Portland cement plant made Florence one of Colorado's major industrial centers by the early 1900s. Today Florence boasts the largest federal prison complex in the United States, which is the town's major employer.
Old Florence, between 2nd Street and the D&RG tracks from Crawford to Santa Fe avenues, is blessed with large old brick homes as well as brick commercial buildings with ornate classical stone trim dating to the town's 1892–1920s boom era. An unusually intact Main Street includes a Decoesque theater, the Rialto (1923), a Sulllivanesque Masonic temple (c. 1905), and the Oasis Tavern in the Vannest Building (1895), of rough-faced local sandstone.
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