City History

City History

Early Days on the "Cotee" River

In December 1883, Aaron McLaughlin Richey (1837-1912), with his wife and daughter, came from Missouri and settled near the mouth of the Cotee (an abbreviation of the Indian name Pithlachascotee) River. His homestead's location became familiarly known as Richey Point.

Shortly after, he established a post office and called it Port Richey. He was its first postmaster, and also opened a small store at that location. Because of his travels by boat along the river and coast to deliver mail and packages - and ferry passengers when needed - he was soon known as Captain Richey.

The actual beginning of New Port Richey dates from 1911, when W. E. Guilford drew up a plan for a future city further inland on the Cotee River. He surveyed locations for many of the proposed city's streets and avenues, and his plan has been followed with very little deviation since that date.

George Sims and Elroy Avery

After George R. Sims moved to the city in 1916 and opened the Sims Land Office, the development of New Port Richey was steady and rapid.

On December 22, 1919, Dr. Elroy M. Avery founded the Avery Library and Historical Society (now the New Port Richey Public Library and The West Pasco Historical Society). The Avery Library opened its doors to the public in April 1920, and provided impetus for the founding of the City of New Port Richey.

On October 27, 1924, residents voted 201:4 in favor of incorporating New Port Richey, and chose Elroy M. Avery as their first mayor. He was sworn in on October 29, 1924.

That December, George Sims deeded his land around Orange Lake, then popularly known as Enchantment Park, to the city's residents in perpetuity. Because of the brand-new city's Ordinance One, the beautiful riverfront gathering spot in the center of town (now known as Sims Park) will forever belong to the people of New Port Richey.

Hollywood of the East

While wintering in Great Neck, New York (a gathering place for film and stage luminaries), George Sims met one of Hollywood's leading movie stars of the silent era, Thomas Meighan, sometimes called "the John Wayne of his day." Due to Mr. Sims's influence, Thomas Meighan built a home in New Port Richey, and was instrumental in attracting other stars to join him in what he called his "favorite Florida city."

Notable residents and frequent guests in New Port Richey included Irving Berlin, Paul Whiteman, Babe Ruth, Raymond Hitchcock, Ed Wynn, Leon Errol, Blanche Ring, Charlotte Greenwood, Joseph Santley, Gloria Swanson, and many others. Golfer Gene Sarazen moved here also, and invented his famous "sand wedge" in New Port Richey.

Screen comedic great Ed Wynn opened The Palms, the first motion picture theater in New Port Richey. Shortly thereafter, the Richey Amusement Company, a corporation composed of local businessmen, opened the Thomas Meighan Theatre on July 1, 1926 in tribute to Mr. Meighan, whose influence brought so many sports and entertainment luminaries to the city.

In 1928, Jesse L. Lasky, producer for Hollywood's Famous Players-Lasky (later Paramount-Lasky) film studio, visited New Port Richey and expressed a desire to “one day join [Thomas] Meighan and others in a colossal motion picture studio enterprise in this vicinity.” In November and December 1933, Harry Miller and William Zimmer of Paramount Pictures also visited, seeking a possible studio location.

For all these reasons, New Port Richey became known as the “Hollywood of the East.”

Hollywood and the Hacienda

On March 4, 1926, James E. Meighan, brother to Thomas Meighan, donated land for the construction of a new Spanish Colonial Revival-style hotel befitting the city's growing popularity with arts, society, and sports luminaries.

The Hacienda opened on February 5, 1927 with Ed Wynn serving as Master of Ceremonies for Thomas Meighan, Gloria Swanson, Lupe Velez, and Ann Harding, among other notables, and was a popular gathering spot for sports and entertainment figures for many years. It was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on October 24, 1996.

Although the Great Depression ended these days, several palatial homes and historic properties, The Hacienda, and the Thomas Meighan Theatre (now the Richey Suncoast Theatre) bear silent witness to New Port Richey's glamorous past.

Some Historic New Port Richey Landmarks

  • Name: The Hacienda - 1927 Location: 5621 Main Street Historical Significance: Home-away-from-home for visiting luminaries: film stars, writers, sports figures, and more.
  • Name: Sims Park - 1916 Location: Bank Street and Circle Boulevard Historical Significance: First known as Enchantment Park until deeded to the City by George Sims, it's the center of community activity, with special events and festivals throughout the year.
  • Name: Richey Suncoast Theatre - 1926 Location: 6237 Grand Boulevard Historical Significance: Originally the Thomas Meighan Theatre, it now houses live theater productions year-round.
  • Name: The West Pasco Historical Society - 1915 Location: 6431 Circle Boulevard Historical Significance: Originally the two-room Seven Springs Schoolhouse from about 1915 to 1925, this historic building now houses a museum and library.
  • Name: Our Lady Queen of Peace Church - 1919 Location: 6431 Circle Boulevard Historical Significance: New Port Richey's first Catholic church, barely seating 100 parishioners. Now owned by the City and moved to Sims Park, Peace Hall hosts weddings and special events.
  • Name: Pasco Building - 1921 Location: 6236 Grand Boulevard Historical Significance: This office and retail building is distinctive for its multi-sided copper cupola.
  • Name: Sims Land Office - 1916 Location: 5728 Main Street Historical Significance: Constructed of sandstone brick, this building was the office of City benefactor George R. Sims.
  • Name: Arcade Building - 1927 Location: 5805 Main Street Historical Significance: Featuring a charming courtyard and fountain, this building houses offices and shops.
  • Name: Chasco Inn - 1926 Location: 5743 Main Street Historical Significance: Now retail space, this building still sports its distinctive pierced/arched roof detail.