Lill’s Garden at the corner of Petroleum and E. Main Street is a beautifully landscaped plot maintained by volunteers on land leased by the City of Florence. The garden recognizes a past Florence benefactor with an unusual background.
Florence’s booming 1920’s economy included 25 oil companies, three refineries, seven gold ore mills, three railroads and more than two dozen coal mines. One of the more unusual businesses drawn to the growing community was the “Parlor House” of Lillian Powers. Lill had worked for Salida’s famous madam, Laura Evans, and came downriver in 1920 to open her own establishment in growing Florence. The 1920 U.S. census showed her operating a boarding house with two female “lodgers” at 311 S. Union St. The brothel operated until 1950, when Chaffee and Fremont Counties shut down all such houses. Although Lillian lived on in Florence in seclusion, it was said that no child in Florence ever went without a winter coat if she knew of the need. Lill passed away in 1960 in a hospital that today hosts the Florence Rose Bed and Breakfast.
An undocumented anecdote states that establishments such as Lill’s earned the description “Red Light” for the railroad man’s red lantern left outside the door or by a window so he could be found quickly in a railroad emergency and to indicate those within were occupied.