The Sass Hotel/Enchantment Inn

Pictures of Orange Lake and the Hotel

This page was last revised on July 2, 2017.

The building which would become the Sass Hotel, the Inn, and the Enchantment Inn was built in 1911-1912 on the south side of Orange Lake in New Port Richey (then Port Richey).

On Jan. 20, 1912, the Tampa Daily Times reported, “The new hotel being erected by the Port Richey company is nearly completed and will be ready for guests about February 1. It is a well constructed frame building with wide verandas, large office and dining room and ten or twelve bed rooms. The hotel will be operated by the Port Richey company, and while it will be kept in the best of style, the price for accommodations will be very low, the idea of the company being not to make money, but to provide a comfortable and inexpensive stopping place for land buyers who may desire to spend a few days looking over the Port Richey company’s lands. As soon as the brick for the chimney arrive the work will be finished.”

On Jan. 14, 1916, the Tampa Morning Tribune reported, “To better accommodate their increasing patronage, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Sass have made extensive improvements within the past month in their hostelry, Hotel Sass, including the enlargement of the dining room and the erecting of a good-sized water tank. Mrs. Sass is a pleasing conversationalist and Mr. Sass is an artist of no small ability. At the rear of the hotel property a cement garage for the use of their patrons has just been completed.”

An advertisement for the Sass Hotel in the Dec. 26, 1918, Port Richey Press states that it has electric light and running water. Rates are from $2.50 per day. Special rates by week or month. The location is “On the Circle, New Port Richey, Fla.” There are advertisements for three hotels, the Sass Hotel, the Hotel Newport, and the Sheldon House in Old Port Richey

In 1920 the Enchantment Inn Co. bought the hotel and renamed it The Inn. The largest stockholder of the Enchantment Inn Co. was George R. Sims. Other stockholders were Clyde F. Burns, Elroy M. Avery, H. S. Rothera, George L. Wanner, W. A. Casey, Mead Wood, C. L. Fox, J. S. Jackson, S. D. Copeland, and D. J. Clark.

On June 23, 1921, an ad appears in the New Port Richey Press for The Inn, H. S. Rothera, manager.

A newspaper ad for The Inn on Jan. 5, 1922, shows H. S. Rothera, Manager. It has “15 Rooms, 4 with Private Baths. Open All the Year. Gulf and River Fishing. Room and Board, 2 in room, $17 per Week, Each. Special Rates by the Month.”

On Apr. 13, 1922, the New Port Richey Press reported that the Enchantment Inn Co. sold the hotel to Miss H. A. Turnbolt of Lincoln, Ill.

On Jan. 5, 1923, the New Port Richey Press reported that Miss Turnbolt had returned to St. Louis because of ill health and that the hotel was being leased to Mr. and Mrs. Sass.

On June 15, 1923, the New Port Richey Press reported that Fred L. Walsh of Somerville, Mass., had purchased the Inn from the Enchantment Co.

A Jan. 2, 1925, newspaper ad shows the Enchantment Inn, F. L. Walsh, proprietor.

In April 1925 Thomas W. Swope of Independence, Mo., and L. A. Moseley of Jacksonville took over possession of the hotel, according to a 1926 newspaper article.

On May 25-26, 1926, the Enchantment Inn was destroyed by a fire, at midnight. About 500 residents watched firefighters attempt to put out the flames.

On Feb. 10, 1928, the stockholders of the Enchantment Inn Co. voted to retire the stock at par and dissolve the corporation. At the time, the largest stockholders were Elroy M. Avery and George R. Sims.

History of the Enchantment Inn (1929)

This article appeared in the New Port Richey Press on June 21, 1929.

The history of the old Enchantment Inn which was destroyed by fire in the spring of 1926 has been related recently by Fred Sass, pioneer hotel owner of New Port Richey.

Back in the primitive days of 1912 Mr. Sass purchased the hotel building which was then under construction, from P. L. Weeks, owner of the Port Richey Co. Shortly after this date a general store was added to the hotel for the convenience of local settlers.

In 1916 for a brief period the hotel changed hands but was soon returned to the ownership of Mr. Sass. At this time ten rooms were added to the building, making a total of fifteen available lodging quarters.

In the three years following, the hotel continued to be the social center of the community. The nine-foot scaly inhabitant of Orange Lake, known as alligator Jack, attracted much attention from travelers. Daily, Fred Sass would stand on the end of the little water dock at the edge of the lake and pound on the railing with a stick. Jack soon learned that this was the food call and would swim over from any part of the lake to receive bits of meat which Mr. Sass fed him from the end of a long stick.

The Enchantment Inn Company, composed of Elroy M. Avery and Geo. R. Sims, purchased the hotel in 1919. In the ensuing five years a number of people acted in the capacity of manager. These included Mrs. Prevost, Ray Poole, and Harry Rothera. The corporation passed into the hands of H. A. Turnbolt and later in turn to Walsh and Swope.

Under the Swope ownership the management was given first to Miss Chapin and then to J. V. Monahan. In the late spring of 1926 the first fire of importance occurred in this city. Late in the evening the alarm was given and soon the rear of the building was a mass of flames.

The fire fighters at first found great difficulty in laying adequate water line. The city fire equipment then consisted of a La France truck equipped with a tank containing a chemical fire extinguisher and a limited amount of hose. Water was brought from Orange Lake through two hose lines. One hose was directed upon the hotel building itself while the other was played upon the rear of the Maxwell building to prevent the fire from spreading. The limited facilities prevented the fire fighters from checking the flames in the hotel but the Maxwell building was soon removed from danger.

The fire furnished the spectators with the usual number of hair-breadth escapes. Mrs. Monahan reached safety by being assisted from the roof of the porch to the top of a sedan parked outside of the building. One woman despairing of rescue jumped from a window into the sand below. Another one of the lodgers escaped from the building in his pajamas and then watched the flames reduce his clothes to ashes in the burning hotel.

Soon after the loss of the Enchantment Inn the community’s need for a similar establishment was realized. A company was formed for the purpose of erecting a new hotel and stock was sold to residents of the city. The present Hacienda, which was opened in February 1927, is proof of the company’s success. This spring brought the hotel’s second season to a close and manger Frank Steele already has made many bookings for the coming winter.

Enchantment Inn Burns to Cinders in Spectacular Midnight Blaze; Hairbreadth Escapes Feature Fire (1926)

Several Injured in Fire; Maxwell Block Saved

This article appeared in the New Port Richey Press on May 28, 1926.

Tangled junk, smoldering ruins, and two brick chimneys watchdogging the shambles, today litters the site of what was until Tuesday midnight the Enchantment Inn.

The hotel was reduced to ruins in less than ninety minutes by as hot and gay a fire as ever pranced through woodwork. But in that scant hour and half the immediate destiny of the city of New Port Richey rested in the caprice of the Gods of Wind and Fire. Fifteen minutes of what the meteorologists are wont to call “light to moderate northwest winds” and most of the business section would have fallen prey to the flames. But there was no wind. The blaze which claimed the famous old hotel, the first building of ambitious pretensions erected in the city, and a hostelry which has enrolled on its register a succession of tourists from all parts of the country, was easily the most spectacular burning in Pasco County’s history of a decade. The picture of that livid blotch of crackling, futile timbers, roaring doom in terrifying red, the element of near tragedy in the screams of women and men who were literally just a jump ahead of death, was an epic of excitement in the somnolence of this tourist-deserted Florida village.

The townsfolk attended the obsequies of the Enchantment Inn in droves. Five hundred persons watched its finish. Sixty men grappled with fire hose and buckets as the flames briefly turned attention first to the Sally Shoppe and then to the Maxwell building. Scores crashed through glass doors and wood partitions in the latter building salvaging valuables of sundry natures when for a time the business block seemed fated to go the way of the Inn. The wood casements in the rear were ignited and the bucket brigade valiantly saw to it that that was all.

The actual damage done by the blaze is beyond the computation of this reporter. Hence without hazarding a dollars and cents estimate, (all competent fire stories should not be complete without one), the Press tells the facts,—that the hotel is in ruins and some thousands of dollars worth of dresses and personal effects belonging to Mr. and Mrs. John V. Monahan, the manager of the hotel and his wife; the bag and baggage of a guest named R. L. Shope; the personal fineries of Cook Edna Saucier and Miss Nellie Lovell; a shot gun and six pairs of boots stored by W. Robert Montgomery against possible future usage of a strictly impersonal nature; and miscellany of small belongings aside from the hotel’s equipment, are gone. The loss is partly covered, the report goes, by insurance.

The origin of the fire has not been determined.

The blaze was discovered first by inmates of the hotel, and publicly by Richard Shipman Andrews, campaign manager of the Press, who aroused the neighborhood with a fire cry as he ran to the scene. Officer Charles Cooper was almost immediately on the scene, and effected a rescue or two in fire fashion, of which more anon.

Lee B. Blanchet, advertising manager of the Press, and Pat O’Dea, the Press City editor, arrived in time to assist in advising the occupants to safety. The blaze had such headway before any human aid could be applied that it was earlier apparent that nothing could save the structure.

It is generally conceded that Chief of the Fire Department Harold Sheetz (?) and his volunteer force did heroic work in confining the blaze to its limitations. They were augmented later by the Tarpon Springs department.

Many of the residents of the Circle, including the writer, were awakened from sleep by the cries of Mrs. Monahan, who, silhouetted against a background of flames, and screaming in hysteria, stood on a portico of the front of the hotel, some fifteen feet from the ground. In the window of a room behind her, her husband was imploring her not to jump to ground where Officer Cooper was waiting to catch her while O’Dea and Blanchet scurried around for a ladder.

Mrs. Monahan’s indecision under the stress of danger caused Cooper to clamber to the roof of an automobile which was parked in front of the hotel and lift her from the edge of the portico to the car and to the ground.

From the other rooms of the hotel could be heard the yells of fright of Miss Saucier.

“Jack, I’m burning up!” she repeated frantically, beseeching her employer’s aid. Monahan retreated from the window of his room and opened the door to go to her room, but was met by a burst of flame. He then jumped from the portico to the ground.

After escorting Mrs. Monahan to safety, Officer Cooper ran to a spot beneath the room of Shope, who was limned against the window of the blazing room, in a dazed condition. Cooper yelled for him to jump and the guest leaped from the window. He landed on his feet, severely injuring his left ankle and knee. Shope also suffered burns of the arms and back, and was treated by Dr. C. M. Gavin and later at the Clearwater hospital.

Miss Saucier, in jumping from a second story room, suffered minor injuries. When the New Port Richey Fire Department arrived, all occupants of the hotel were out of the building, and it was apparent that efforts should be exerted to save the Sally Shop and Maxwell Building. A hose line was soon playing these structures, relieving a bucket brigade, which headed by Leland C. Poole, Clint Lockhart, and Arthur Ortega, and comprising at least thirty men of the city had lined up on the roofs of these buildings. Lockhart fell from the roof of the Sally Shop and injured his ankle.

At 1:45 a.m., less than two hours after the blaze was discovered, there was nothing of the hotel remaining but ashes. The Enchantment was built in 1911 by Fred Sass, who operated it more than nine years. The Enchantment Inn Company, formed of local stockholders, then took over the hotel, later selling to Fred Walsh. The present ownership of the hotel took possession in April 1925. It comprises Thomas W. Swope of Independence, Mo., and L. A. Moseley of Jacksonville.

Monahan’s Story of Hotel Fire (1926)

This article appeared in the New Port Richey Press on May 28, 1926.

John V. “Jack” Monahan, manager of the ill-fated Enchantment Inn, when seen by a Press reporter, following the disastrous fire Tuesday night, made this statement:

“I was awakened about midnight by my wife, who told me there was a commotion downstairs in the lobby. Upon arising, crashes suggestive of falling glass reached my ears. I then went to the window, and was appalled at the sight of soaring flames emanating from the left wing of the building. After calling to Miss Edna Saucier, one of the employes of the hotel, to hurry to safety, I dashed, followed by my wife, to the door of my room to warn R. L. Shope, a guest, who was asleep in one of the rooms. Volumes of smoke and flames greeted us at the open door, and we were unable to get out.

“I then went back and assisted my wife out the window, to the roof. My car was parked under the roof, and Cooper leaped upon the top of the motor and helped my wife to the ground.

“I went back again and vainly tried to reach Shope, but being unable to do so, I called to policeman Cooper, and told him of the plight of the guest. Cooper rushed around the building, and climbing as near to Shope’s room as the fire would allow, called for the imprisoned man to jump for his life. Shope jumped, and was safe in the arms of the officer. I then left the building by means of a ladder that had been brought to the scene.

“Upon reaching the ground I sought my wife, who was in a nervous state due to the ordeal she had just passed through.

“Mrs. Monahan and myself feel that we owe a debt of gratitude to Officer Charles Cooper, whose noble efforts in behalf of Mr. Shope and ourselves were without doubt the most instrumental means of our reaching safety during the awful moments of that night.”

Guest Injured in Fire Praises Cooper (1926)

This article appeared in the New Port Richey Press on May 28, 1926.

A reporter of the Press after visiting Mr. R. L. Shope, the only guest at the Enchantment Inn, when it was burned to the ground Tuesday night of this week, received a statement from him, in which he was voluminous in his praise of the good work done by Officer Charles Cooper, to whom Shope attributes the saving of his life. Says Shope:

“I owe an unpayable debt of gratitude to Officer Cooper of your city. I am almost positive that had it not been for his heroic efforts in my behalf that I should be lying a scarred figure in that mess of ruins. I wish to thank him from the bottom of my heart.

“When I came to this city yesterday I was amazed at its beauty, and thrilled with the thought that I might some day settle here. I made my headquarters at the Enchantment Inn, and being somewhat fatigued after a hard journey, I retired early.

“It seemed to me I had been asleep only a short while when I was awakened by a crashing of timber, and the next thing I knew my room was filled with smoke. Every exit was closed to me as I tried to get out of the burning building, and when I opened my windows to leap, the flames shot high and cut off that passage. I was soon in a daze and about to give up hope when I vaguely heard the commands of the officer to jump. From then on, I remember nothing until I was in the arms of the policeman, and safe.”

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