Harvey opened a restaurant in 1876 to provide fine meals to Santa Fe passengers. He soon decided to include lodging as well, and bought the old Clifton Hotel in Florence. It became the first Harvey House with sleeping accommodations. One third of the original structure has been preserved as a museum by the Florence Historical Society, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Eventually, Harvey Houses were established along the entire route of the Santa Fe Railroad. They were considered diamonds in the dust, elegant places where weary travelers could refresh themselves with a gourmet meal and a clean room for the nights.
Mr. Harvey demanded that his employees, particularly his waitresses, exhibit moral character and follow proper conduct at all times. “Harvey Girls,” in their black dresses and white aprons, became a symbol of the Santa Fe. A final meal was served at the Florence Harvey House in 1900, and the building was sold.
Visitors may view a mannequin dressed in the Harvey uniform, on display at the museum. An example of a place setting may also be seen, as well as several items that belonged to Mr. Harvey, including a collapsible drinking cup. Photos are also on display of Fred Harvey and the first Harvey House.
A 1929 caboose is the latest addition to the Florence Historical Society’s collection at the museum. The caboose was built the first year metal cabooses were introduced. It comes with its own tracks and houses Santa Fe Railroad items.
Florence High School alumni photos dating from 1924 to 1971 are stored in a multi-plex display.