.

Hacienda Hotel-- New Port Richey’s National Historic Landmark

The Hacienda, an intricate part of our community, stands as a symbolic reminder of the glitz, glamour, and fame of the city's past.

For nearly five years, the former Hacienda Hotel in downtown New Port Richey has been vacant as city leaders negotiate the future of this historic landmark.

For more than 80 years, the Hacienda has been an intricate part of our community. Today, it stands as a symbolic reminder of the glitz, glamour, and fame that hotel planners worked diligently to establish long ago. While redevelopment of the hotel figures prominently into plans for the city’s future, it’s important to remember the Hacienda’s history, which should be revered.

Arriving to the city in 1925,  visitors had few choices for nightly lodging.  There was the magnificent Sass Hotel overlooking Orange Lake, Hotel Newport on North Boulevard and Hotel York on South Boulevard.

By August, 1925, residents were enthusiastic about the possibilities of a more modern, fire-resistant hotel. The St. Petersburg Times reported that plans emerged during a meeting where a site was selected in the exact center of town.

According to the Tarpon Springs Leader, the beautiful tract of land overlooking the Pithlachascotee River was donated by James E. Meighan, brother to silent movie star Thomas Meighan-- both land owners in New Port Richey.

In December, 1925, it was reported that the proposed hotel had been given its name, “The Hacienda”, and an operating company, Community Hotel Inc., was constituted to oversee construction and to operate the hotel. Historical documents show that among corporate officers was vice president James E. Meighan.

Local newspapers show that the Community Hotel Inc. approved plans by June 1926 and hoped that they could help attract other Hollywood celebrities to the city. Plans called for “a modern, fifty-room hotel of extreme Spanish design, equipped with a steam-heating plant and comfortably furnished throughout.”

August 11, 1926, the local company of Burns-Becker broke ground and construction was performed at a rapid pace. The Tampa Tribune reported that the building was erected, furnished, and received its first guest in 184 days from the day of ground breaking; a record itself in rapid high-grade construction-- total cost, including furnishings, was $130,000.

An informal opening of the hotel took place February 5, 1927 ,where there were 800 guests in attendance-- events included dinner. A more formal opening followed February 17, 1927 where more than 120 guests attended.

In 1930, in the midst of its heyday, Hacienda was the scene of many grand events that were attended by some of the most notable celebrities of stage and screen, including Thomas Meighan, Leon Errol, Madeline Cameron, Frances Ring, Flora Zabelle, and such noted writers as Bob Davis, George Ade, Ring Lardner, Hal W. Lanigan and others.

According to local newspapers, guests included actress Dorothy Dalton; songwriter Walter Donaldson; attorney Clarence Darrow; W. J. Wells, general manager of Macy’s and President of the Retail Managers Association of the U. S.; and Frank Case, writer and owner-operator of the Algonquin Hotel in New York. It seemed as though hotel planners had accomplished their goal of attracting Hollywood celebrities. But this all came crashing down during the Great Depression.

While the Hacienda survived the Depression, in 1935 the New Port Richey Press reported the Community Hotel Inc. sold its interest to Robert Holmes Sr., who previously operated hotels in Douglas, Georgia and Tampa, Florida.  In the years that followed, the hotel never saw the number of guests it had in previous years. Over the next 50 years, there were nearly a dozen different proprietors.

In 1985, almost 60 years after opening, the Hacienda closed its doors after being sold to Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services for use as a 75-bed assisted living facility.

The former hotel was designated as a National Historic Place on October 24, 1996, one of ten such sites in Pasco County. After being purchased by the city for $2.2 million, Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services vacated the building in 2006.

The St. Petersburg Times reported in 2006 that the city’s intentions were making the former hotel an anchor for downtown redevelopment efforts, however redevelopment has yet to come to fruition and the historic Hacienda sits empty, which poses its own issues.

Sitting empty, each passing year now becomes vital to the future of this once prominent hotel as time and vandalism take their toll. But, as redevelopment plans move forward, extreme caution should be taken.  Change too much, and we could affect this historic landmark’s status on the National Registry and integrity as a local historic resource.

Jennifer Eichenberger March 15, 2011 at 03:22 PM
I had heard two things about the hotel, neither mentioned in the story. One, the hotel was used for rum runners during prohibition--they would bring the hootch by boat and offload it into an underground tunnel that runs under the hotel (true, not true)? Second, in one of it's incarnations, it used to be a brothel? Both of these facts would make the story wayyyy more interesting.
Edward E. Roe Sr. March 15, 2011 at 06:42 PM
I Love that Old Building ! On March 6th, 1982, I Married My Wife at Sunset, outside in the Courtyard, near the Fountian, under a Custom built Arch. She was esscorted down the outside steps of that Beautifull Spanish Building by Her Father (Richard - R.I.P.) My Father Philip R.I.P.) leased the whole Hotel for two days for the event. What a Wonderfull time and place Down Town New Port Richey was back then. Although times and things have change in 29 years, I still vivit the Old place every time I'm in Town, exspecialy at Our anual Chasco Feista Events. Edward E. Roe Sr.
Jeff Cannon March 15, 2011 at 10:05 PM
Jennifer-- The Hacienda has been part of urban legends for some time. When I was a kid we heard rumors that Capone used tunnels under the old hotel. While Pasco did have an active rum running/ moonshinning history, typically boats brought the goods into places like Filman's Bayou or Bayport in Hernando County-- where they were under the safety of cover instead of being in downtown at risk of being caught by the fuzz. I've never heard any stories about it being a brothel, although I'm sure that the Hollywood celebrities had their fair share of fun. From a strict research point of view there seems to be no historical evidence to support it being a brothel or used for rum running, however these stories could be buried for obvious reasons. If we do find any records that indicate otherwise, as you said it will make a great story!!
Cathy Manley March 16, 2011 at 01:21 AM
In visting Sims Park frequently with my grand daughter, I admire the beauty of this historic landmark and would love to see it brought back to its splendor! I heard that it was once used as a mental hospital and wonder if it was ? A friend and I also agreed that on several occasions the blinds move back and forth inside although there seems to be no broken windows or no electric power. Has there ever been reported hauntings ?
Jeff Cannon March 16, 2011 at 02:30 AM
Cathy-- The Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services operated their assited living facility there for 25+ years, which was once described as a home for elderly persons with mental disabilities. However, I do not believe this to be the type of facility that folks imagine nor could it be considered a "mental hospital". Residents lived at this facility as they would at any other nursing home. As for the old hotel being haunted, I'm not sure if I've heard any reports as such but it would not surprise me since many of the buidlings in downtown are reportedly haunted-- these include places like the Meighan Theatre (Richey Suncoast), the old Chasco Inn a.k.a the Weiskopf Building, and Historical Society to name a few. Might make for a good story or two about the hauntings of New Port Richey.
JB March 22, 2011 at 06:33 PM
Instead of talking about the "glitz and glamour" of the past, lets do something to make it part of our future. Tear it down and build some condos!!
Cathy Manley March 22, 2011 at 06:43 PM
JB, Restoring parts of our historical past can be a great part of our future. Don't you think there are plenty of condos already sitting empty? If the integrity of the structure is still sound, why would you want to destroy it and waste resources? Cathy
Jennifer Eichenberger March 22, 2011 at 09:24 PM
Agreed. Condos are not glitzy or glamorous. We can preserve history while we work to make our downtown a more hip place for people to visit. I would love to see it be like Dunedin'a Main Street, as that city has found a way to make the area relevant, and I travel from NPR to eat and shop there often. It would be nice to have the same vibe in my own town. But I would never think of tearing down the Hacienda to do so! There are plenty of open buildings that can be further developed to meet the residents' needs.
Jeff Cannon March 22, 2011 at 09:52 PM
I believe that we should not abandoned our historic past, instead we should strive to learn from that past and to apply what our forefather’s and founder’s learned and experienced to our future progress. The founder’s of our city went through difficult economic times and they came through them just as we will, but the difference is that they stood together in their trying times. Remember the Hacienda survived the Great Depression so hotel proprietors must have done something right. JB, we’ve already lost a great deal of our history during the development boom of the 1950s and 1960s; including several historic cemeteries. With what little we have left it should be preserved. I’ll be happy to provide you directions to the cemetery that now lies under Regency Park, yes with homes built over it. I am sure during the development of Regency Park someone was standing there saying, “let’s do something to make it part of our future--- let’s tear it down and build some new homes!” It would seem that nothing is sacred anymore.
deanna norris March 24, 2011 at 03:25 AM
Cemetery underneath Regency Park? Wow, I had no idea. I grew up in Regency Park we had the 5th home built in this community and my father worked for the developer for awhile, this is something I never heard of. Where in Regency Park was the former cemetery?
Ryan Rogers August 24, 2011 at 11:29 AM
Wow it make's total sense to tear down a park and expand a historic land mark that should be left alone or just renovated. The general population in new port richey is getting younger so let's tear down a park for another hotel. While there are project's not a block away that have been left untouched for year's now. Our city leader's have made bad choice's in the past and it show's clearly. I hope it does not happen again. I played at sim's park as a kid and eventually got to take my children there.It would be a shame to see it torn down so some developer can leave yet another eyesore in our little town. I can see renovating and remodeling the hacienda but expansion would only ruin it.
nikki bronson April 26, 2013 at 04:07 AM
I worked there when it was a mental facility. Yes our patients were extremely mental some thinking that they were possed by the devil. It is suppose to be haunted by a 15 year old girl named matilda who hung herself in the tower. Her mother worked at there when it was a brothel and found out matilda was going to run off and meet her boyfriend and get married. Matilda was locked in the bell tower unable to meet him and eventually hung herself. It was scary at times working there with flickering lights and phones lines lighting up on the phones from areas that had no one in them at the time.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something