The Hacienda Hotel

Exterior view of the Hacienda, from an early post card; the fountain, photographed in 2003

Pictures of the Hacienda

1929 Silent Movie Showing the Hacienda Exterior

This page was last revised on Jan. 6, 2020.

On Aug. 9, 1925, the St. Petersburg Times reported:

Plans have been set on foot at an enthusiastic meeting of New Port Richeyites for the construction of a 100-room fire-proof hotel. Within a few minutes after the meeting was called to order nearly the entire capital required was subscribed.

The site selected is a tract overlooking the beautiful Pithlachascotee river, north of the Gulf high school building, and in the exact center of population. The site has the further advantage of being located within a short distance of the proposed station of the West Coast railway, now an assured fact.

The structure will be of the most modern construction and will be either of Moorish or Spanish type. There will be in the first unit 55 rooms, elegantly appointed, and each room equipped with private bath. The hotel grounds will overlook the river for more than 300 feet and are well shaded with palms and other semi-tropical forest growth and shrubbery.

The estimated cost is $150,000 and the structure will be ready for opening before the beginning of January.

On Dec. 31, 1925, the St. Petersburg Times reported: “An operating company comprising business men of New Port Richey, Miami, Boston, and New York have deposited earnest money on a site chosen for a combined hotel and country club which it is expected will be under construction within sixty days. The new hotel, according to present designs, will have rooms with baths for 100 guests, and will be known as “The Hacienda.” The architecture will be of morocco-type. It will be designed in wings, with a spacious terrace in the center.”

On March 5, 1926, the New Port Richey Press that the Civitans had launched a campaign to raise $100,000 for a $250,000 hotel. The newspaper also printed a letter from James E. Meighan to Edgar A. Wright, chairman of the hotel committee, dated March 4, 1926. The letter reads as follows:

Dear Mr. Mayor:—

Understanding that the city of New Port Richey is desirous of building a hotel, I wish to offer absolutely free and clear, lots one, two, three, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen... and... sixteen, Block three of Port Richey Company’s sub-division to New Port Richey—same facing one hundred and fifty feet on Main street, running back two hundred and thirty feet on Riverside place—and having a frontage of one hundred and fifty feet on Sims Park.

This offer is unrestricted, the only condition being that a hotel consisting of not less than sixty (60) rooms exclusive of apartments be erected according to plans acceptable to your hotel committee and starting not less than six (6) months from date.

This proposition will remain open for thirty (30) days.

Very truly yours,

The March 15, 1926, New Port Richey Press listed the officers and directors of Community Hotel, Inc. (to be incorporated). Officers: Charles De Woody, president; Edgar A. Wright, vice-president; James E. Meighan, second vice-president; Charles F. Hoffman, secretary; Charles W. Barnett, treasurer. Directors: Warren E. Burns, James T. Becker, Robert L. Bolling, Charles W. Barnett, Ed C. Campbell, Charles De Woody, Frank I. Grey, Charles F. Hoffman, Dr. W. W. Hunt, Walter K. Jahn, James E. Meighan, Richard Morgan, A. J. Pauels, Fred A. Shaw, George R. Sims, Charles Snell, Edgar A. Wright.

On March 15, 1926, the New Port Richey Press reported, “Today marks the beginning of the actual campaign to build New Port Richey’s proposed new modern hotel. ... A comprehensive plan of campaign has been devised by a general committee of citizens and a temporary board of directors elected for the purpose of obtaining a state charter to operate a hotel such as the one proposed in New Port Richey.

On March 19, 1926, the New Port Richey Press reported:

The drive for $100,000 to insure construction of New Port Richey’s quarter of a million dollar hotel, to be erected on a site donated by James E. Meighan, on Main street, was two-thirds completed last night, when a summation of the subscriptions showed that more than $64,000 had been signed for in four days.

It is predicted that the drive will have been successfully consummated within a week, and that building plans will be entered into at once. The fact that New Port Richey realizes the need of a hotel such as the one contemplated has been clearly exemplified in the total of the subscriptions thus far, despite the stringency of the local money market.

There is still the necessity of raising more than $35,000, to make the total count $100,000 but scores of prospects (persons with the interest of New Port Richey at heart) are yet to be heard from.

Unofficial tabulations from drive headquarters in the chamber of commerce building show that one hundred and nine persons have subscribed for the hotel stock, and that only four subscriptions for amounts as great as $5,000 have been received.

An energetic committee of drive workers, headed by Walter K. Jahn and under the personal direction of Dr. Hunt and Charles Snell will continue to ply their public-spirited trade of solicitation until the necessary amount is raised.

Wilfred Neill wrote in a 1974 newspaper column, “The corporation issued 2,500 shares of preferred stock at $100 each, par. It also issued 2,500 shares of common stock, with a nominal value of $20 each. On March 15 a drive was begun, and by March 19, two-thirds of the necessary money had been raised.”

On the night of May 25-26, 1926, the Enchantment Inn, New Port Richey’s major hotel, was destroyed by fire. (The hotel had also been known as the Inn and the Sass Hotel.)

On June 4, 1926, the New Port Richey Press reported:

At a meeting of the board of directors of the proposed Community Hotel held Wednesday, final acceptance was made of plans submitted by Thomas Reed Martin of Sarasota for architectural designs of the exterior and interior of the building.

Architect Martin submitted to the board complete specifications of every room of the new structure, and it was decided at the meeting that the hotel can be built as planned at a cost not to exceed $100,000 for the first unit.

The plans call for a modern, fifty-room hotel of extreme Spanish design, equipped with a steam-heating plant and comfortably furnished throughout. Several unique features of design are planned for the hotel. It will have an open-air dining room, for one thing, and the patio-effect of the dining place will be bordered by palms. The dining room and lobby will be beamed in Spanish grille fashion. Paintings of the lobby and main dining room interiors are on display at the Chamber of Commerce rooms. ...

A name for the hotel has not yet been decided.

On July 23, 1926, the Tarpon Springs Leader reported, “The new talked of hotel is not a dream for on Thursday just before the ball game July 15, steps were taken to prove that the dream will be a reality. Mr. Warren E. Burns at that time with a gold shovel turned the first spade full of earth on the Hotel site. Mr. M. A. Fullington was made a director.”

On Aug. 12, 1926, the St. Petersburg Evening Independent reported, “Ground was broken yesterday for the New Port Richey community hotel. This building is being erected by the Burns-Becker company of that city, for the New Port Richey Hotel association. The movement was sponsored by the Civitan club. The hotel will be built of hollow tile, stucco finish, and will contain 50 rooms.”

A September 1926 newspaper article referred to the new Community Hotel, and quoted Oliver LeMay, supervisor of construction, as saying that he hoped construction would be completed by New Year’s Day.

On Nov. 8, 1926, the board of directors voted to name the hotel “The Hacienda.”

On Nov. 13, 1926, the new hotel was formally christened “The Hacienda.” The speaker for the ceremony was the famous comedian and actor Ed Wynn, who expressed his great pleasure at being in “the most beautiful city imaginable.”

On Dec. 9, 1926, the Tampa Morning Tribune reported, “The Hacienda is being financed by local capital and there are more than 50 stockholders. Warren E. Burns and associates assuming $45,000 of the total of $100,000. ... The site was donated by James Meighan, brother of Thomas Meighan, the moving picture star.”

According to a 1974 article by Wilfred Neill, about $30,000 worth of furnishings were bought from the Tampa Hardware Co. on Dec. 10, 1926.

A 1927 Tampa Tribune article reported that the hotel cost $100,000 and furnishings cost an additional $30,000. The Tribune article also stated, “The building was erected, furnished and received its first guests in 184 days from the day of the breaking of the ground, a record in itself in rapid high grade construction.”

On Jan. 14, 1927, the New Port Richey Press reported that Arthur A. Boardman would manage the hotel. Bennett Mallard was assistant manager, and A. R. Poole and James Tiffany were also on the staff.

The informal opening of the Hacienda Hotel took place on Feb. 5, 1927, when the first guests were welcomed, dinner was served, and the hotel was thrown open for inspection. Eight hundred persons attended, according to the New Port Richey Press, which reported, "The outpouring of citizens was the largest since New Port Richey was settled."

On Feb. 12, 1927, a dinner dance sponsored by the hotel management was held. Music was provided by Blue Steele’s Orchestra and the Sun Set Hills Country Club Orchestra.

The formal opening of the Hacienda took place on Feb. 17, 1927. The New Port Richey Press reported that more than 120 persons attended the event sponsored by the City Club of New Port Richey. Charles F. Hoffman, President of the City Club, was the toastmaster, and the speakers were New Port Richey Mayor Edgar A. Wright, Charles E. DeWoody, Dr. W. W. Hunt, and C. W. Lyons of Tampa.

The Hacienda Hotel, early brochure

The New Port Richey Press carried a photo of the Hacienda in 1930 with 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. Gay parties from St. Petersburg, Tampa, Clearwater and other cities motored here to enjoy the delightful atmosphere of this 'Bit of Old Spain Amid the Palms.'" Others who stayed at the Hacienda in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s were Mrs. Arthur Hammerstein (formerly known as the 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, owner-operator of the Algonquin Hotel in New York and a writer. Local lore has it that Gloria Swanson stayed at the Hacienda and even had her own room there. However, asked about this later in her life, Swanson replied that she had never visited the Hacienda. See a separate article here.

According to the 1974 Wilfred Neill article, "The Hacienda weathered the Great Depression. In the years that followed, the hotel’s ownership changed several times as stock shares were bought and sold. At one time, the hotel was owned by Maxine Stein, who also had a theatrical makeup company in Los Angeles. Later owners developed a Spanish theme. An addition to the hotel was named the La Fonda steak room. The cocktail room was renamed the Matador Lounge. Bullfight posters adorned its walls. Waitresses and barmaids wore toreador pants and bolero jackets."

On Nov. 10, 1931, the St. Petersburg Evening Independent reported, “The Hacienda is to have a change in policy this season. The rates, both for rooms and for meals, will be lowered. Mrs. I. N. Vickers, proprietress of the Kentucky Inn, will have charge of the management and the dining room, and Mrs. Oneta DeWoody will be the hostess for the social activities. The hotel was built by community money and it is hoped it will now be used for the activities of the community.”

A newspaper advertisement on Aug. 15, 1933, showed that the Hacienda was under the same management as the Hotel De Soto in Tampa and the Tybee Hotel in Savannah Beach, Ga.

In 1935 the Community Hotel Corporation sold the Hacienda to Robert Holmes Sr., whose sons Gray and Robert Jr., managed it.

On Nov. 1, 1935, the New Port Richey Press reported that Gray Holmes and his brother Robert Holmes Jr. had recently taken over the operation of the Hacienda and expected to open for the season on November 15. It also reported that Gray Holmes had been operating a first class hotel in Douglas, Ga., for the past several years, and that Robert Holmes Jr. had had charge of the DeSota hotel in Tampa recently. The article also reported, "The hotel has been under the management of Major H. Stanford for the past several years. Major Stanford left last Spring to operate the Ferry Tavern, at Old Isle (?), Conn."

On January 25, 1938, the New Port Richey Press reported: “Thirty-three guests were registered Tuesday at the Hacienda, New Port Richey fine hotel, indicating greater travel through this section. Many of those registered will remain for some time in this section.”

On Nov. 14, 1944, the New Port Richey Press reported that the Hacienda Hotel had been sold the previous week to Rev. Dr. William T. Watson of St. Petersburg. The article reported that Watson was "a leader in religious work in St. Petersburg." It also reported, "Owing to war conditions the hotel has not been operated to full capacity in the past three years." Watson was the founder of the Florida Bible Institute at Temple Terrace.

In a recent letter to Bill W. Lanpher, President of Trinity College, Dr. Watson’s son recalled that his father purchased several hotels which he thought might be a good location for the Florida Bible College, one of which was the Hacienda. He wrote, “However, the town of New Port Richey did not want to lose their only hotel. We operated it as a hotel with no official connection to the school, of which I am aware. The school did hold their annual end of the year Banquets there.”

[It is claimed that evangelist Billy Graham worked as a waiter at the Hacienda while he was attending Bible College. However, according to his biography he actually worked as a waiter at the restaurant on the campus of Florida Bible Institute in Tampa, which he attended from 1937 to 1940. In 1969, Graham recalled that in 1937 while attending Temple Terrace Independent Bible School in Tampa, his first recreational trip and picnic was to New Port Richey.]

In 1950 Watson sold the hotel to Mr. and Mrs. H. W. Schuldt, formerly of Omaha.

In 1951 Schuldt sold the hotel to Mr. and Mrs. Morris Gates, who had operated the Delaware Towers at Chicago, and Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Merkatz, who had operated the Royal Inn at Woodbourne, N. Y.

In November 1953 the hotel was purchased by Mrs. Maxine G. Stein, formerly of Chicago.

On Dec. 24, 1953, the New Port Richey Press reported, "Currently plans are being prepared for the construction of a 75 foot swimming pool, a crescent drive from which a canopy covered walk will lead to the new Main Street entrance."

The newly furnished and redecorated Hacienda Hotel opened on Dec. 29, 1953. Ray Miller was the manager.

On June 5, 1954, the St. Petersburg Times reported: “TAMPA — A Chicago man filed suit in Federal Court here yesterday asking appointment of a receiver for the Hacienda Hotel at New Port Richey, its sale and dissolution of the owners’ partnership. The plaintiff, Raymond Miller, named Maxine G. Stein of New Port Richey as defendant. Miller said they each bought half-interest in the hotel in 1953. He alleged she agreed to pay him $20,000 for his half last February, but that she paid only $5,000. Miller said he is due $15,000 under that agreement and $5,500 spent for repairs.”

On Mar. 17, 1955, a New Port Richey Press article named Mrs. Maxine Strompsen of the Hacienda Hotel.

On Sept. 25, 1955, the New Port Richey Press reported that the hotel was sold by Mrs. Maxine Stromson to Mrs. Francis Supic, formerly of Milwaukee, and that it would reopen on Oct. 1 with Mrs. Supic’s son Karl J. Gabriel as manager.

On Mar. 26, 1959, the New Port Richey Press reported:

Robert Semple, former manager of Pinellas Poultry Co. of Clearwater, recently became the new owner and manager of the Hacienda Hotel. The Hacienda was purchased by Mr. Semple from Mrs. Frances Supic, who owned the hotel for approximately 3½ years. The new owner anticipates that a corporation will be formed in the near future. ... He is being aided in the Hacienda operation by his wife, Jean Marie. Mr. Semple informs the Press that he will welcome any suggestions from the people of New Port Richey in order that he may make the facilities of the establishment, including the dining room and cocktail lounge, as attractive as possible. He has enlisted the aid of a new chef, Henry Weber, to enhance the food policy of the dining room. Mr. Weber has a vast background of experience in Florida restaurants, including the Ft. Harrison Hotel dining room in Clearwater.

The hotel staged a gala re-opening on Oct. 3, 1959, following improvements which were made during the summer months.

1959 photos by Angelo Deciucies

On May 12, 1960, the New Port Richey Press reported that manager Robert Semple planned to construct a large swimming pool to be financed by sale of memberships. Use of the pool would be restricted to members and hotel guests.

On Feb. 28, 1962, the St. Petersburg Times published an advertisement for the Hacienda Retirement Hotel, which stated that rooms were $125 per month, which included two meals per day and maid service.

On May 28, 1964, the New Port Richey Press reported, “Announcement was made last week of the appointment of Roy Benedict as manager of Hotel Hacienda, his duties encompassing supervision of all departments of the operation. He replaces Robert Semple, manager for the past five years, who left with Mrs. Semple and their infant daughter for an indefinite vacation.”

At some point, Semple sold his share of the ownership of the hotel to Des Little, according to the recollection of Semple’s son Bill.

On Oct. 12, 1967, the New Port Richey Press wrote, “It is our understanding that Des Little holds the controlling stock, if not all of the Hacienda Hotel, where he has recently made many improvements in the interior, and has other interests in various projects.”

On June 7, 1968, the St. Petersburg Times reported that a fire occurred at the Hacienda at 5 a.m. yesterday, with 27 residents evacuated quickly and without injury. Des Little, vice president of Hacienda Motor Hotel, Inc., said that 12 rooms sustained major damage. The fire department reported the building as a 10 per cent loss. The article stated that the 59-room structure was purchased by its current owners in 1959.

On October 24, 1974, the fiftieth anniversary of the incorporation of New Port Richey was celebrated with a dinner at the Hacienda Hotel. The menu—turkey, cornbread, corn, and all the trimmings—duplicated the one that was served to celebrate the opening of the Hacienda.

In 1974 Jacqueline A. and Michael N. Battista purchased the hotel.

Several years later New Port Richey real estate agent E. Ed Smith filed suit to foreclose on the hotel after the couple had failed to make mortgage payments.

On July 26, 1985, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services Inc. had selected the Hacienda Hotel as the site of Florida’s first "House for Special Services," and that the Hacienda was expected to close its doors after 60 years in the hotel business. The article referred to Michael Battista as the owner of the hotel.

On May 30, 1986, Florida Governor Bob Graham visited New Port Richey to help dedicate the Hacienda Home for Special Services.

On Aug. 6, 1986, the Harry L. Green Hacienda Home for Special Services, operated by Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, opened in the former Hacienda Hotel. The program was initially described an ACLF for persons 18 and older who were free of acute conditions or infectious diseases. More recently, the facility was described as a 75-bed home for elderly persons with mental disabilities.

On Oct. 24, 1996, the Hacienda Hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

On Aug. 12, 2003, the New Port Richey City Council voted to purchase the Hacienda Hotel from Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services for $2.2 million. The city subsequently leased the facility to that organization while it arranged relocation of the residents.

In May 2006 New Port Richey City Manager Scott Miller reported that Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services would vacate the premises by June 1.

In 2012 the city abandoned a five-year relationship with Community Development Partners, which had planned to improve the facility but never followed through on its proposals. On Jan. 12, 2013, about 400 local residents turned out to volunteer to clean up the building.

In 2014 the state legislature allocated $1 million toward restoration of the Hacienda, and New Port Richey city council chose Florida Motel Inc. as the developer to renovate the building. In Feb. 2015 the city reached an agreement with father and son investors Yaakov and Avi Rosner of Florida Motel Inc. to operate the Hacienda as a boutique hotel.

Suncoast News video, Feb. 2015

In December 2015 New Port Richey City Council members agreed to hire D. L. Porter Construction, based in Sarasota, for the renovation.

In 2016 the city deemed the Rosner team to have defaulted on a development agreement reached the previous year.

On Aug. 26, 2017, Friends of the Hacienda and Historic New Port Richey held a fundraiser in the hotel. It was thought to be the first social event to take place in the Hacienda in about 30 years.

In June 2018 the city approved a lease agreement with James Gunderson to restore the hotel. Gunderson had previously restored the Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora. Gunderson has an option to purchase the hotel once it is restored.

Center: Jim Gunderson, who has a lease agreement with the city to operate the Hacienda Hotel, with an option to purchase it when it opens. With him are Gary Gann and Bob Langford of the Friends of the Hacienda Hotel and Historic New Port Richey. 2019 photo.

The address of the Hacienda is 5621 Main Street, New Port Richey, Florida 34652. The former address was 108 Riverside Place. Riverside Place is the former name of Bank Street, where the main entrance to the hotel was.

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