The Hacienda Hotel has sat vacant for years, but on Saturday, it was full of activity.
A flock of people descended on the on the Hacienda Saturday community cleanup of the historic downtown landmark. The public was let into the building and courtyard and given the chance to clean the property inside and out.
Hundreds of people came to help out at the cleanup, which was organized by the city. Interim city manager Susan Dillinger said that close to 350 volunteers signed up to participate in the event. They were joined by city staff city staff and city council members.
The cleanup was “impossible” without the support from community members, said Susan Dillinger, interim city manager.
“This is something they’ve wanted for years, and they got their wish,” she said.
Volunteers performed work throughout the property. Some spruced up the courtyard. Some stripped carpet from the hotel’s living/social room inside the entrance facing Main Street. Some sweeped the living room, guest hotel rooms, hallways or second floor balcony. Some covered the outer walls of the building with primer. Some worked on the roof.
The Hacienda opened for business as a hotel in 1927. Celebrities from that era were reportedly sighted at the Hacienda when it was a hotel.
According to Pasco history website Fivay.org, a photo of the Hacienda from 1930 carried the caption: “Here were assembled at various times some of the most famous living celebrities of stage and screen, including Thomas Meighan, Leon Errol, Madeline Cameron, Frances Ring, Flora Zabelle, and numerous others as well as such noted writers as Bob Davis, George Ade, Ring Lardner, Hal W. Lanigan and others.
The Hacienda eventually was used as an assisted living facility. The city CRA bought the Hacienda in the early years of last decade, and the building has been vacant since 2006. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
One of the folks who appreciated the opportunity to enter the Hacienda was Ben Barber, who lives in the unincorporated New Port Richey area. He has a history degree,. He was found on the second floor balcony, sweeping the balcony and scraping at what looked liked bee nests in the balcony roof.
“I wanted to participate in this because…this hotel has a lot of historic value for the city, and I think it’s being underutilized at this point,” he said. “So we need to clean it up so it can be used for something important.
The city council voted last month to end their relationship with Community Development Partners, a development firm. The city had been negotiating with the firm for years on the proposal to redevelop the Hacienda.
Now, leaders are pondering next steps for the Hacienda Hotel.
Dillinger says there might be more cleanups in the future. The city council recently authorized the purchase of a security camera system for the property that will be paid for with seized forfeiture funds from the police department.
Councilman Bill Phillips, a big proponent of the cleanup, said city officials were really pleased with the work done Saturday. Participants knocked out a lot of the work in two or two and a half hours.
Phillips said a mission of the cleanup was to get the community reinvested in downtown New Port Richey and the Hacienda, “which has obviously really been the jewel of the city for a long time.”
“Thank you to the volunteers,” Phillips said. “Thank you the city staff and all the project managers. We just couldn’t have done this without you. Really this exceeds any level of expectation that we had.”
Want to know more about the people who cleaned up the Hacienda? Check out our video of why they cleaned up the building.