HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
New Port Richey
See also the Port Richey page. For information on how New Port Richey was named, see the Origins of Place Names page. This page was last revised on July 5, 2018.
Feb. 9, 1888. An article in the Ohio Democrat, probably referring to what is now called Orange Lake, reports:
Another pretty drive is to the famous Blue Sink, one of those marvelous spots where in some past generation the land and all upon it disappeared. It is very beautiful, circular in form and filled with water blue as indigo. The banks slope gently down and all around are giant pines, that stand as grim sentinels and custodians of the secret of the spot. A short distance to the north are the Salt Springs where during the war the confederates manufactured their salt. Relics of those olden days may still be seen.
1911. The Port Richey Co. purchases part of the land of the Aripeka Saw Mills. [The Port Richey Co. consisted of P. L. Weeks, a turpentine operator from Brooksville, his brother J. S. Weeks Jr., and W. E. Guilford, formerly with the Gillette Safety Razor Co.
Aug. 16, 1911. A map labeled “Port Richey Company, Plan for Town of Port Richey” is recorded in public records. [The plan was drawn up by W. E. Guilford. It apparently had many of the streets and avenues surveyed, but not named.]
Oct. 1, 1911. A 1911 Port Richey Co. publication has: “The Port Richey Northern Railway at this writing (October 1, 1911) has been completed to within two miles of Port Richey. It will require but a short while longer to complete the road to the town of Port Richey. Work on the railroad bridge is already under way, and will be completed by December 1st.”
Oct. 19, 1911. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “E. W. Guilford, representing the Port Richey Land Company, which has the handling of the lands of the Weeks Brothers in Pasco County, is busily engaged in establishing in Tampa a branch of the business on Franklin street. Mr. Guilford has been extremely successful in handling Florida lands, having been identified with holders of large interests in hammock lands around Brooksville.”
Nov. 12, 1911. An advertisement in the Tampa Morning Tribune carries the headline: “OPENING OFFER OF FARM AND GROVE LANDS IN PASCO COUNTY, FLA. LOW PRICES - EASY TERMS - NO INTEREST - NO TAXES. THE LANDS OF THE PORT RICHEY COMPANY.”
Jan. 20, 1912. The Tampa Daily Times reports, “The new hotel being erected by the Port Richey company is nearly completed and will be ready for guests about February 1.” [The hotel became the Sass Hotel, and later the Inn and the Enchantment Inn. Information about the hotel is here.]
Jan. 20, 1912. The Tampa Daily Times reports, “Mr. McNatt is erecting a new store building and will soon have it filled with a good stock of goods. The Port Richey colony lands have been open to settlement only a short time, yet a number of ten and twenty acre tracts have been purchased by homeseekers, many of whom have already moved on their lands and are beginning to make improvements.”
Feb. 3, 1912. The Tampa Daily Times reports, “A force of workmen are engaged in erecting a well designed hotel. work has also been commenced on a new store which will be opened and occupied by Mr. W. R. McNatt, and a passenger station and freight warehouse is to go up at once. Several residences and storehouses are in prospect. To insure the rapid upbuilding of Port Richey the Port Richey company is giving absolutely free to each purchaser of a ten-acre farm tract a lot in the town. The majority of purchasers will build on their free town lots and thus the rapid growth of Port Richey is assured.”
Mar. 8, 1912. The Tampa Daily Times reports, “Effective March 1, Frank W. Dunkle, cashier, has been appointed as general manager of the Port Richey Land company to succeed W. E. Guilford, whose interests in the company has been acquired by P. L. Weeks and J. S. Weeks jr., treasurer, and who were already the majority stockholders.”
Aug. 16, 1912. Railway Age Gazette reports, “TAMPA & GULF COAST.—A new branch has been opened for freight service only from Tarpon Springs, Fla., to Port Richey, eight miles. C. H. Lutz, secretary, treasurer and general manager, Odessa, Fla.” [According to an article by J. H. Moran in The Genesis of New Port Richey, the depot in Port Richey (later New Port Richey) was built in November 1912. The building of the bridge across the Cotee River delayed the arrival of trains until the summer of 1913, when semi-weekly train service was established.]
Feb. 25, 1913. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports that R. E. Filcher of Chicago and George R. Sims have purchased 30,000 acres of land through the Port Richey Land Company. [On May 9, 1913, the Tarpon Springs Leader reported that R. E. Filcher and George R. Sims purchased the Port Richey Co. and its lands including the town site of Port Richey on April 1. Filcher died July 21, 1929, in Los Angeles.]
May 9, 1913. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports: “A large plot has been donated by the Company adjacent to the lake in the town of Port Richey for the immediate erection of a Methodist Church building. ... The church building will be constructed of cement brick.” [On Aug. 12, 1913, the Port Richey Company deeded lots 29, 30, 31, and 32 in Block 51 to J. A. Kyle, W. E. Frank, and J. H. Moran, as trustees of the Port Richey Methodist Episcopal Church South. This property was at the northwest corner of Pennsylvania Ave. and Jefferson Street. According to A History of Pasco County, “In 1913 the Methodist church was organized, the first minister was Rev. H. Logan. J. M. Mitchell was the first superintendent of the Sunday School; later on the Methodists built a substantial church.” According to J. H. Moran in The Genesis of New Port Richey, “The first religious service was held in the park in the summer of 1913, the Reverend Holmes Logan of Tarpon Springs preaching the sermon. In the fall the service was held in the McNatt building and there continued until the Methodist church was ready for occupancy. After Mr. Logan came Pastors Tompkins, Collier, (during whose ministry the church was built) Windham, Stevens, Partridge, and J. E. Jones.” Construction of the Methodist-Episcopal Church at the northwest corner of Pennsylvania Ave. and Jefferson St. began on Feb. 1, 1915. On Feb. 27, 1915, the cornerstone of the First Methodist Church in New Port Richey was laid. On Mar. 12, 1915, the Tarpon Springs Leader reported, “Work on the new church is being delayed on account of non-arrival of materials.” Construction was completed in 1918.]
Nov. 1913. On the day after Thanksgiving, Gerben DeVries first visits Port Richey. He wrote later, “Port Richey then consisted of a store and a postoffice in charge of David Clark who had always lived here. There was a small school building, a few houses near the mouth of the river, and that was about all. New Port Richey was not yet on the map. Where this town now stands, I found a hotel in charge of two very congenial people—Mr. and Mrs. Fred Sass. There was also a 'freight and passenger depot' at the end of two rusty 30-pound rails, an unoccupied store building which is now the Idlewile apartment house, Mr. Malmstrom’s home on the Circle nearing completion, a beautiful river bank covered with a grove of the finest palm and oak trees I had ever seen, a lot of pretty white stakes marking the location of town lots for sale, and a sand trail as crooked as they make them running from here to Tarpon Springs.”
1914. The Grand Rapids Inn, later the Hotel Newport, is constructed on the Boulevard in what would become New Port Richey by A. J. Pauels and Mike Broersma. [On March 12, 1915, the Tarpon Springs Leader reported, “Mr. Pauels, owner of the Grand Rapids Inn, is building a large addition to the Inn, it having been found too small to accommodate the increasing patronage.”]
1914. Port Richey Hardware and Supply is established. [A 1924 advertisement makes this claim and says the business is “the oldest established business in town.”]
July 14, 1914. A newspaper article refers to two parts of Port Richey as “old Port Richey” and “new Port Richey.” (School board minutes also used both names in July 1914.)
July 24, 1914. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “...there is no road from new to old Port Richey.”
Aug. 14, 1914. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “On the banks of the beautiful Cotee River, beneath the shade of the palms in the pretty park at Port Richey, services were again held Sunday afternoon and were largely attended by settlers, both in new and old Port Richey. The sermon was delivered by J. M. Mitchell, of Elfers, and Rev. Holloway, of the same place, offered prayer. ... While the arrangements for the religious services were somewhat spontaneous, they fill a long-felt need in the community and the increasing interest is evident that they will be successful.
Sept. 18, 1914. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “Because some travelers were not careful to close the gate on the farm of L. C. Draughon, and thus allowed cattle to stray, he has been obliged to close the gate permanently by nailing it shut so that settlers in old Port Richey wishing to come to New Port Richey are obliged to go a distance of four miles to get one and a half miles. The residents from the old and new Port Richey will therefore have a ‘road bee’ Saturday and cut a road from Orange circle straight north about three-quarters of a mile to connect with the river road.”
Oct. 18, 1914. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “Work on the steel bridge over the Cootee River, where the new rock road crosses the stream, is progressing satisfactorily under the direction of H. Martindale of the Vincennes (Ind.) Bridge Company. All of the material for the bridge is on the ground.”
1915. New Port Richey has 100 residents, according to a local history.
Feb. 20, 1915. The application for a New Port Richey Post Office is dated Feb. 20, 1915.
Apr. 4, 1915. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “Post Office Inspector Reece was in Port Richey March 30th to investigate the need of a post office at this place. The name submitted is New Pt. Richey, and Gerben M. DeVries is applicant for postmaster and will serve the office, if established, in connection with his clerical work for the Port Richey Company. There is no question but that the office will be established within a few weeks.”
May 3-4, 1915. The name New Port Richey appears in the minutes of a Pasco County school board meeting.
May 1915. Mr. and Mrs. Frank Luikart arrive in what would become New Port Richey from West Virginia. In an interview by Julie Obenreder, Mrs. Luikart recalled that at the time there were only six houses in the town. There were no roads, only sand trails running through dense woodlands.
Aug. 24, 1915. Lewis Charles Draft, age 5, dies. His funeral is the first held in New Port Richey.
Aug. 30, 1915. The New Port Richey post office is established.
Nov. 25, 1915. At a meeting of the New Port Richey Board of Trade plans are discussed for erecting a clubhouse in the park and a boathouse on the river.
Dec. 13, 1915. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports that the Cootie Community Club has been organized with about 40 members, and that work of erecting a clubhouse is now underway. The building will be located in the park between the Dixie National Highway and the Cootie River. The newspaper also reported, “Citizens of New Port Richey are much pleased over the establishment of daily train service on the Tampa & Gulf Coast road instead of the bi-weekly service heretofore scheduled. By the new schedule which became effective December 10, the train leaves New Port Richey at 6 a.m. and returning arrives here at 6 p.m., thus permitting passengers to stay in Tarpon Springs or Tampa all day.”
Dec. 31, 1915. James E. Grey (GHS '34) is born, the first boy born in New Port Richey. He was the son of Frank I. Grey and Mary Casey.
1915-1916. A board of trade is established to promote New Port Richey during the winter of 1915-1916, according to an article by Gerben DeVries.
1916. The Cotee River Community Club is built by George R. Sims. [He deeded it to the City of New Port Richey in November 1924.]
Jan. 1916. The first newspaper, the New Port Richey Post, is published. The following is from an article by Ralph Bellwood in the New Port Richey Press of Jan. 2, 1969:
From the information we have been able to glean from the past, less than two hundred copies were printed and only four issues came out during the first year. Practically no advertisement was found in the first two issues; however, the Post of December, 1916, had nearly a full page of advertisements.[The New Port Richey Post subsequently ceased publication. Only the Jan. 1916 issue has been seen; it does not show the name of a publisher. In 1948 the New Port Richey Press said that the Post was “apparently produced by the Port Richey Company.”]
Jan. 1916. The New Port Richey Post reports, “Dr. J. Martin Posey, of Hudson, has rented the pretty bungalow owned by W. F. Bragg on Orange Circle and moved his family here. Dr. Posey is much impressed with the prospects of a fine little city and enthused over the possibilities of this part of Florida. He has opened an office over the Port Richey Drug Store and will be one of our substantial citizens hereafter.”
Jan. 1916. The New Port Richey Post reports, “One of the recent business blocks erected here is that of B. H. Hermanson, who, as proprietor, has opened the New Port Richey drug store and soda fountain. ... The postoffice is located in the Drug Store quarters, and in other sections of the building are located the dry goods store of W. H. Valentine, the meat market of J. W. Clark, and on second floor may be found W. A. Casey’s barber shop, Dr. Posey’s office and other items of interest.”
May 26, 1916. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “The new boat house on the water front in Enchantment Park has been completed. With an open pavilion on the roof and painted white and green, it is in keeping with the scenic beauty of the Cotee River.”
Nov. 26, 1916. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports that the need for a bridge across the Cootee River was discussed at a recent meeting of the New Port Richey Board of Trade. [The article stated that about 20 families live across the river and are practically cut off from New Port Richey.]
Nov. 26, 1916. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports that the Board of Trade, through the efforts of the Woman’s Civic Club, is taking steps to secure 10 acres of land between New Port Richey and Elfers for a cemetery. [The cemetery was established at a different site. According to the historical marker at the cemetery, two acres for the site were donated by George R. Sims and the first interment was that of Clifford E. Freels in 1917; another source has C. E. Freel. On Nov. 2, 1917, a notice in the Dade City Banner indicates that the Pine Hill Community Cemetery Association had been formed by Nettie F. Sheldon, Lonnie L. Clark, Jennie Leach, Emma M. Rowan, Minnie Broersma, and Alice C. Davis. On Feb. 16, 1920, the Port Richey Press reported, “The new cemetery will be known as the Pine Hill Cemetery.” The cemetery was deeded to the city in May 1926, or, according to a recent newspaper article, in 1941.]
1917. The business people of New Port Richey purchase a Model T Ford heavy duty fire truck which has a water tank but no pumper, according to a history of the NPRVFD. [For the history of fire departments in western Pasco County, see this page.]
Dec. 4, 1917. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports that New Port Richey is deeply divided over whether to kill a ten-foot alligator that had made its way into Orange Lake.
Dec. 17, 1917. The Tarpon Springs Leader laments the fact that in his very popular book Over the Top, published earlier this year, Arthur Guy Empey has used the word cooties for body lice; Cootie or Cootee is a popular shortened form for Pithlachascotee.
July 14, 1918. The Tampa Morning Tribune reports, “E. C. Brina sold his grocery store Tuesday to Dr. I. N. Vickers of Kentucky. The store has been under the management of Frank Grey, who will continue to run the business. ... L. C. Draughon & Co. have opened a grocery store next door to the post office in the Havens block.”
Nov. 21, 1918. The Port Richey Press begins publication. [The publisher was Charles L. Fox and son. The name was changed to the New Port Richey Press on Nov. 4, 1920.]
Dec. 26, 1918. The earliest Port Richey Press which has been seen (vol. 1, no. 6) reports “Christmas Day in New Port Richey was well and royally spent. Both hotels provided Christmas dinners with seasonable fare.” It reported, “The entertainment held at New Port Richey school, last Saturday night may be said to have ushered in the busy festive season which the Twin Ports have this week witnessed. The occasion was the pupils Christmas concert, and the schoolhouse was packed with an audience both interested and appreciative.” It mentioned that Miss Leach was the principal and that Mr. Havens gave a violin selection. The newspaper reported that pupils of Elfers High School presented a Christmas program on Monday night. “At the close of the program, Mr. Pinholster, the principal, was presented by pupils with a handsome military set, and he in turn made presents to the scholars.” An advertisement for Elfers Junior High School stated that G. D. Pinholster was Principal. There are advertisements for three hotels, the Sass Hotel, the Hotel Newport, and the Sheldon House in Old Port Richey. The Port Richey postmaster is J. H. Sheldon.
Jan. 17, 1919. Myron H. Kelsey, about 70, a visitor from Jersey City, N. J., is killed in New Port Richey when a horse ran away and threw him out of a buggy. [The day before, Frank Howarth of New Port Richey was seriously injured when he was thrown under his wagon and the horses’ heels when his team took fright.]
Jan. 30, 1919. The Port Richey Press reports: “A meeting was held in the Clubhouse Thursday night to consider the progress which is being made on State Aid Road No. 5, which is the official title of the important highway running through Pasco County, and connecting New Port Richey with Tarpon Springs on the south and Port Richey, Hudson, Dade City, etc., to the north.”
Spring 1919. According to The Genesis of New Port Richey, “The first brick building in the town [New Port Richey] was completed by Mr. Sims in the spring of 1919, and has since been used by him for his central offices. In the fall of 1921, the beautiful and substantial building for the First State Bank of New Port Richey was completed. A few months later, Ralph Werner’s two-story brick mercantile building on Main street opened its doors, and was quickly followed by James W. Clark, jr.’s two story brick building extending along the boulevard from Main street to the railway at Nebraska street.”
Mar. 9, 1919. The Church of Our Lady, Queen of Peace, the first Roman Catholic church in western Pasco, is dedicated. At the time there were only seven Catholic families in town. [The church building was moved to Sims Park on June 5, 2001, where it was to be restored and used as a meeting place.]
June 1919. Dr. Elroy McKendree Avery arrives in New Port Richey.
Aug. 28, 1919. The Port Richey Press reports: “We are more than pleased to be in a position to announce that arrangements for the immediate installation of an electric light and ice manufacturing plant in New Port Richey are now compete, and may be expected to be in practical operation within sixty days; probably light and power earlier than this. The plant secured is in every way efficient and up-to-date, and will be capable of turning out ice equal to the best in Florida. Work of erecting buildings for the housing of the plant will be commenced at once, and it may be surmized that the poles and lines will go up simultaneously.”
Sept. 4, 1919. The Port Richey Press reports that on last Monday the County Commission granted Clyde Fenimore Burns the franchise to erect poles and lay lines and supply electric current to New Port Richey. [On Nov. 23, 1917, the Tarpon Springs Leader reported that Clyde Burns had arrived in New Port Richey from Chicago “for the purpose of installing an electric plant for lighting New Port Richey.”
Dec. 25, 1919. The Port Richey Press has: “The telephone number of the Port Richey Press is 120-O. One long and two short rings will call us up on the local line.”
April 10, 1920. The Avery Library and Historical Society formally opens with dedication ceremonies (Janet Lewis in West Pasco’s Heritage). [Dr. Elroy McKendree Avery had donated his personal book collection as the nucleus of a public library. The library was originally located in the Snell Building on Main St. between Boulevard and Adams. The Port Richey Press of Nov. 20, 1919, carried a notice that an application to form a non-profit corporation known as the Avery Library and Historical Society would be filed on Dec. 22, 1919.]
Dec. 9, 1920. The New Port Richey Press reports, “The new bridge crossing the river at the park is now open for traffic.”
Jan. 2, 1921. The first Baptist service in New Port Richey is conducted in a rented hall in the Snell Building. A history of First Baptist Church is here.
Jan. 27, 1921. In an article in the New Port Richey Press, postmaster Gerben DeVries writes, “A reliable authority estimates our present population [New Port Richey] about 1500. I can confirm that figure.”
June 8, 1921. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that a new theater, the Picturedrome, is under construction in New Port Richey for Pretorius and Jackson.
June 14, 1921. Community Congregational Church holds its first service at Snell Hall at Adams and Main Street. Rev. Milton H. Babcock was the organizing pastor. [During the summer, a church building was started on two lots donated by George R. Sims, located on the north side of Orange Lake. Before the building was finished, it was badly damaged by the Oct. 1921 hurricane but the fledgling congregation repaired the damage and completed the building. Rev. Babcock resigned in April 1922 and was succeeded by Rev. Charles Drake (until Feb. 1923), Rev. Ray Busler (to Oct. 1923), Rev. Oscar Denny (to Nov. 1929), Rev Ralph Krout (to April 1932), and Rev. Frank J. Brown (to April 1935). Lay ministers served briefly, followed by Rev. James Parker (from Sept. 1936 to April 1941) and Rev. Floyd H. Andrus (to July 1963). The church was replaced by a new building at the same site in 1966.]
Aug. 12, 1921. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports, “The First State Bank of New Port Richey has been organized, and this institution is now erecting its fine stone building right in the heart of the city. Contractor W. C. Newcomb, of Largo, is making headway on the work and is planning to finish and turn the structure over to the officers by the first of September. The vault in the bank is being made as near burglar proof as possible and all necessary precautions are being taken in the structure throughout to make it as safe and secure as modern engineering can devise. C. Werner is putting up a two-story business building which will accommodate a number of stores and in addition will house many people upstairs in well arranged apartments. A drug store will occupy one of the rooms on the first floor. Meade Wood has the job of erecting a big building for the Congregational church. The plans call for a main room that will accommodate several hundred people and will likely be equal to all the needs of the church for many years to come.”
Aug. 27, 1921. The Palms Theater opens. It was built by Rufus and Margaret Jackson. According to Florida Cracker Days, “Saturday night became a community event in New Port Richey as parents, accompanying their young ones, and youths converged on the Palm. After leaving their children, the parents would take the opportunity to visit friends until the movies ended. ... the votes for the first Chasco queen were counted in the theater in 1922, and Mrs. George R. Sims won the honor.” [Newspapers in 1922 indicate that an entertainment feature was shown on Saturday nights and an educational feature was shown on Wednesday nights. A 1924 advertisement indicated that “moving pictures” were being shown on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and showed John S. Jackson as proprietor. After the theater was closed, about 1926, it was used as a feed store and later as a recreation hall for children. On Apr. 12, 1929, the New Port Richey Press reported that J. S. Jackson, “until last week manager of the Meighan Theatre here” would be remodeling the old Palms theater and that he would “show the same high grade pictures at the Palms as were shown at the Meighan.” The New Port Richey Press reported on Feb. 28, 1930, would reopen on Saturday night. An article of in the Lincoln Star on June 4, 1933, reported, “Ed Wynn owns a theater at New Port Richey, Fla.” According to several articles, the theater was the Palms Theater, which Wynn intended to replace with a more modern theater. The Palms Theater burned to the ground on Jan. 30, 1938.]
Oct. 15, 1921. First State Bank opens for business at Main and Boulevard, the first bank in New Port Richey.
Oct. 21, 1921. A newspaper reports, “The new unit of the electric light plant is nearing completion and when finished will furnish twenty-four hour service.”
Oct. 25, 1921. A hurricane, later estimated as category 3, makes landfall around Tarpon Springs. Information is here.
Nov. 18, 1921. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that the first annual Water Carnival will be held Thanksgiving afternoon in New Port Richey.
Nov. 21, 1921. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that construction has begun on the new Clark Building, a two-story brick building being erected at the corner of Boulevard and Main.
1922. According to West Pasco’s Heritage, “Fred C. Frierson moved from Brooksville and opened the first prescription pharmacy in West Pasco in New Port Richey in 1922, but the residents still had to rely mainly on the doctors from Tarpon Springs, until 1926 when Dr. C. A. Gavin, M. D., and A. P. English, M. D., both began a practice in New Port Richey.”
Feb. 9, 1922. The Elfers West Pasco Record reports that the new Clark building in New Port Richey is expected to be ready for occupancy in about two weeks.
Feb. 23, 1922. The New Port Richey Press reports that Nikko Nook, owned by Walter K. Jahn, was destroyed by fire on Thursday at noon. The fire began when a gas stove exploded.
March 3-5, 1922. The first Chasco Fiesta is held in Enchantment Park. Gerben DeVries, the first postmaster of New Port Richey, had created the legend of the Chasco Fiesta.
Aug. 3, 1922. The New Port Richey Press reports that Dr. L. Martin, a dentist and ophthalmologist, will be at The Inn every Thursday beginning Aug. 10 for the treatment of patients.
Sept. 18, 1922. Gulf High School opens, the first high school in western Pasco County.
Dec. 1, 1922. The New Port Richey Press quotes George R. Sims as saying that the population of New Port Richey is now nearing 1500 and that New Port Richey is now the second largest town in the county.
Oct. 31, 1923. New Port Richey begins getting its electricity from the Southern Utilities Co. in Tarpon Springs.
May 1924. William Jennings Bryan visits New Port Richey, campaigning for election as a delegate-at-large to the Democratic National Convention.
Sept. 1924. The Genesis of New Port Richey lists these churches: Community Church, Rev. O. H. Denny; Church of Our Lady, Queen of Peace, Father Felix, O. S. B.; Baptist Church, Rev. B. M. Pack, services in Snell Hall; Methodist Episcopal Church, South, Rev. W. R. Howell.
Oct. 17, 1924. The New Port Richey Press publishes a letter saying that the black residents of Port Richey wish to thank the white people for their donations towards the building of the Little Home Baptist Church. It reported, “We are having day school here now, and again we wish to thank the kind white ladies who have furnished the school room with books for the education of our children.”
Oct. 27, 1924. Residents vote 201-4 in favor of incorporating New Port Richey and choose Elroy M. Avery the first mayor. He was sworn in on Oct. 29. Other officials of the new town were C. W. Barnett, clerk; L. H. Meeth, marshal; and councilmen W. H. Critchley, Oscar William Herms, J. Henry Sheldon, W. A. Lockard, J. H. Casey, F. A. Shaw and Rollo Draft.
Nov. 18, 1924. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports, “The home of Dr. and Mrs. I. N. Vickers on the boulevard, which has been remodelled into a hotel known as the 'Kentucky Inn,' was completed last week, and is now open for business.” [Isaac N. Vickers and his wife Goldie were born in Kentucky. The following information is taken from a 1962 newspaper article. Dr. Vickers was a dentist in Madisonville, Ky. The hotel consisted of 14 rooms, a dining room, kitchen, and a large lobby. Later owners included Harry B. Fleharty (who had been an assistant U. S. Attorney General), Mrs. Mae Zimmerman, her sister Cecelia Emerick, George McKay, and Henry Dingus Jr. Rollo Draft recalled that Vickers was once asked to move the inn back five feet from the street to comply with the building ordinance, and told authorities not to touch anything, backing up the assertion with a shotgun in hand. The inn stayed where it was and it was the only building on the street without room for a sidewalk. The building was used as a hotel until 1955, when it became vacant until it was razed in 1962.]
Dec. 5, 1924. The New Port Richey Press reports that the New Port Richey Town Council unanimously adopted Ordinance No. 1, which applied to the acceptance by the town of certain land and tenements from the Port Richey Company. [The property included Enchantment Park, which was renamed Sims Park on Dec. 16.]
Dec. 16, 1924. Enchantment Park is renamed Sims Park to honor George R. Sims.
1925. The Morey-Bowman Building is constructed at the corner of Grand Boulevard and Missouri in New Port Richey.
January 1925. The paving of Main Street in New Port Richey is begun.
Feb. 17, 1925. William G. McAdoo (1863-1941), who served as secretary of the treasury in President Woodrow Wilson’s Cabinet from 1913 to 1918, and John Skelton Williams, who was Comptroller of the Currency, visit the New Port Richey area, looking at land as a possible investment.
May 8, 1925. The New Port Richey Press reports: “A mass meeting held in Palms Theatre Monday night for the purpose of considering the incorporation of New Port Richey and Elfers under one government, resulted in a decisive vote of those present to reject the consolidation under the proposed plan.”
May 27, 1925. The New Port Richey Press reports that city council let a contract Tuesday night for the paving of Montana Avenue.
June 1925. During June and July of 1925, more than 50 parcels of land and houses as well as other real estate are withdrawn from the market through official notices published in the New Port Richey Press because of the expectation of an impending boom in real estate. Some of the properties were later re-listed at several times their previous price.
July 25, 1925. A new high record is reached when Walter K. Jahn is reported to have paid $1,250 per front foot for the Hermanson-Draft property at Main Street and Boulevard. [The property had a frontage of 40 feet on the Boulevard and ran through to Florida Avenue, thus fronting on three streets. Jahn’s plan was to erect a four-story brick building but the plans were dropped when the crash occurred. This information was taken from a 1961 column by John W. Parkes.]
Sept. 1925. The Richey Amusement Co. forms a corporation with a capital stock of $50,000 on hand for the building of what would become the Meighan Theatre at Nebraska and Boulevard South. [According to a contemporary newspaper account, the corporation was composed of W. K. Jahn, James W. Clark, Charles W. Barnett, F. I. Grey, and F. E. Dingus. The building contractor was L. C. Luppens.]
Oct. 23, 1925. The New Port Richey Press reports “Work Starts Next Week on New Theatre,” referring to what would become the Meighan Theatre. [The groundbreaking took place on Nov. 3.]
Jan. 1, 1926. The New Port Richey Press carries the headline “FAMOUS MILLIONAIRES OF BROADWAY BUY IN NEW PORT RICHEY” and the sub-headline “Thomas Meighan and Paul Whiteman, Irving Berlin, Sam H. Harris among Celebrities Who Have Purchased Here.” More on the New Port Richey-Hollywood connection is here.
Jan. 5, 1926. Publisher and real estate developer Edgar A. Wright is elected mayor of New Port Richey. Wright was editor of Florida Grower and later published Florida Fruit World, according to a newspaper article by John W. Parkes, publisher of the New Port Richey Press.
Jan. 22, 1926. The New Port Richey Press reports that playwright and screenwriter Edgar A. Selwyn had purchased a homesite in Bayshore Estates, and that actor Arthur Deagon intended to erect a home here.
Jan. 29, 1926. The New Port Richey Press reports the city councils of Elfers and New Port Richey have appointed committees to study a possible merger of the two cities. The newspaper reported that “some months ago” an earlier plan to unite the two cities was rejected at a public meeting of New Port Richey residents.
March 19, 1926. The Western Union Telegraph Co. establishes an office in the area. Mr. and Mrs. George R. Sims sent the first telegram, an invitation to Gov. and Mrs. John W. Martin to visit them.
May 1, 1926. The newly-opened Pasco Building holds an “open house” for the public to tour the facility.
May 25-26, 1926. The Enchantment Inn is destroyed by a fire, at midnight. About 500 residents watched firefighters attempt to put out the flames.
July 2, 1926. The New Port Richey Press reports “New Port Richey’s splendid new motion picture theatre opened last night to a capacity audience with Thomas Meighan, after whom the theatre was named, appearing in the starring role of 'The New Klondike,' a comedy picture of Florida.” Congratulatory telegrams were read from notables, including Meighan and Ed Wynn.
Jan. 7, 1927. The Dade City Banner reports that on Jan. 4 residents of New Port Richey voted 120-80 to allow Sunday theaters, 81- 80 to allow Sunday baseball, but 35-144 against Sunday dancing. It also reported that Mayor Edgar A. Wright was re-elected Mayor. The total vote was 219.
Feb. 4, 1927. The New Port Richey Press reports that in an interview with Thomas Meighan the actor stated that his next picture, We're All Gamblers, would be filmed in New Port Richey. [The film was released in 1927; however, according to an Internet web page, Meighan stayed at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles during the filming of the picture.]
Feb. 5, 1927. The informal opening of the Hacienda Hotel takes place. [On Feb. 8, the Dade City Banner reported that the Hacienda Hotel “was informally opened on Saturday, Feb. 5, when the first guests were welcomed, dinner served, and the hotel thrown open for inspection.” On Feb. 11, the New Port Richey Press reported that 800 persons thronged the hotel for the public inspection on Feb. 5, the largest outpouring of citizens since New Port Richey was founded.]
Feb. 17, 1927. The formal opening of the Hacienda Hotel is held. 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 (or Hurt?), and C. W. Lyons of Tampa.
April 1, 1927. Father Felix Ullrich begins a campaign to raise funds for the erection of a new Catholic church on Washington Street, just north of the original 1919 building.
April 19, 1927. The New Port Richey Press reports: “The actual construction of the Jasmin Point Golf Club began Monday, when a crew of surveyors, engineers and land-clearers, under the direction of the Gulf Engineering Company, swung into the task of readying 180-acres of land for the reception of fairways, the building of bunkers and hazards, and the completion by next January first of at least nine- holes for play.”
May 6, 1927. The New Port Richey Press reports, “Work on the new arcade post office building started yesterday.” [On Aug. 5, 1927, the newspaper reported that construction was completed. On Sept. 9, 1927, the newspaper reported that the New Port Richey Post Office was moved from the Swafford Building to the Burnette Arcade on Saturday. A 1928 newspaper article calls it the Burnett Arcade Building, and reports the Avery Library has moved into the building.]
Aug. 15, 1927. Members of the City Club vote at a special meeting to go on record as favoring the secession of the western side of Pasco County, either making it a separate county or else joining the “more progressive” Pinellas county.
Aug. 26, 1927. The New Port Richey Press reports that golfer Gene Sarazen has purchased “a residential plot at Jasmin Point opposite the property recently purchased by Thomas Meighan.”
Sept. 17, 1927. A concrete bridge crossing the Pithlachascotee River just west of the Hacienda Hotel (sometimes called the “Humpback Bridge”) is completed at a cost of $30,000 to the county. The contractor was Henry Quist. Approaches were paid for by the city of New Port Richey. [The dedication took place on Oct. 6 with a bottle of champagne broken by Thomas Meighan. Over 500 area residents turned out. Meighan invited residents of the city to the groundbreaking for his new home on Monday.]
Oct. 8, 1927. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports, “H. A. Butler, well known contractor of Sarasota, returned from New Port Richey yesterday morning where he was awarded a contract to build the new residence of Thomas Meighan, famous film star, which is to be erected in that city at a cost of $75,000. Nine prominent Florida contractors had bid on the contract and although Mr. Butler’s bid was not the lowest, he was awarded the contract. Frank Reed Martin, Sarasota architect, has been named as architect on the Meighan residence.” [On Oct. 14, 1927, the New Port Richey Press reported, “Ground was broken Monday for the foundation of Thomas Meighan’s beautiful residence to be erected on his waterfront property at Jasmin Point Estates and material is being shipped in at a rapid rate.” An Associated Press article of Oct. 25, 1936, reported, “Sale of the palatial home of the late Thomas Meighan, star of the silent screen, in New Port Richey to Irving R. Allen of Chicago was revealed Saturday by the record of a deed in the County Clerk’s office. The Spanish-type home was built at a cost of approximately $150,000, with a $60,000 swimming pool. It was completed during the latter days of the Florida boom when Meighan, Gene Sarazen, and other prominent persons formed a colony in picturesque New Port Richey. The deed indicated a sale price of $30,000. Transfer to Allen was made by Frances Ring Meighan and Arthur M. Minn, executors of the Meighan estate.” Addison T. Miller later purchased the home (and the Meighan theater also). Miller died in Sept. 1944. The property was sold to Fred Howard in 1954. On Oct. 23, 1960, a public auction was held to sell the furnishings of the estate of Thomas Meighan by owner V. M. Clark. Most of the Meighan home was subsequently demolished.]
Jan. 13, 1928. The New Port Richey Press reports that August Hecksher and Irwin Yarnell plan to drill for oil two miles north of the city on or before March 1, believing the prospects for finding oil are excellent.
Feb. 3, 1928. The New Port Richey Press reports that users of the telephone are now required to give the operator the telephone number of the person being called instead of just giving her the person’s name. It reported that, although Mrs. Clyde Lapham had an excellent memory, she could no longer remember the numbers of everyone and hoped that callers would keep their telephone catalogs handy.
Feb. 5, 1929. The Jasmin Point Golf Course opens in New Port Richey.
May 17, 1929. The New Port Richey Press reports: “A syndicate organized by E. A. Haley, owner of the Fort Harrison hotel ..., has purchased 5,000 acres of land in Pasco county which will be used to establish one of the largest fish and game preservers in the county. Associated with Mr. Haley in the project are Fred W. Warner, sr., and Fred W. Warner, jr., of Dunedin Isles; C. G. Adian, of St. Petersburg, and James Clark of New Port Richey, and others. A fish and game club is to be organized and a clubhouse modern in all respects is to be built.”
Mar 7, 1930. The New Port Richey Press reports that the first sound movie will be shown at the Meighan Theatre on March 9. [According to a 1963 article by John W. Parkes, Thomas Meighan was present to push the button. On May 2, 1930, the New Port Richey Press reported that the theater would temporarily abandon the showing of sound pictures and return to silent films for the summer because improvements in the sound needed to be made; prices would be reduced to 10 cents and 20 cents.]
August 1930. New Port Richey City Council announces that property that had been foreclosed on because of unpaid assessments will be offered free to anyone who will immediately erect a residence costing not less than $2500, occupy the residence for at least three months out of each year for five years, and pay the annual taxes during those five years.
June 13, 1931. The First State Bank of New Port Richey suspends operations, a victim of the depression.
Aug. 1931. The Junior Women’s Club sponsors a Chasco Carnival at the Bay Lea Inn in Port Richey.
Aug. 14, 1931. The St. Petersburg Times reports:
NEW PORT RICHEY, Aug. 13.—Due to the limited finances of the town at this time, the city council voted at a meeting Monday night in the city hall to cut out all white way lights until further notice in an effort to conserve the already depleted treasury. The only lights remaining after Wednesday will be those at strategic points for general protection, and this will enable the city to reduce its expenditures several hundred dollars a month. Salaries of the city clerk, superintendent of public works, and water works superintendent were cut approximately one-third each, it being pointed out that tax collections are poor and little prospects of their improving before the fall taxes become due and payable. President Marx Goodman made a stirring address, urging the cooperation of the citizens in reducing the town’s running expenses, and the payment of delinquent taxes, pointing out that the water works is at the present time the only visible means of support at the command of the city government. Following the reading of a communication from Mayor Charles W. Barnett, it was voted to permit the night police force to resume its nightly patrols of the outlying districts, which to a great extent will have to be in darkness, now that practically all lights are to be eliminated.
Sept. 1931. The Avery Public Library closes because of reduced tax collections by the city and because of the failure of the First State Bank. [The library shortly thereafter resumed operation two days per week.]
March 23, 1933. Cartoonist Billy DeBeck, creator of Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, arrives with his wife for a visit with Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Meighan. DeBeck played golf in a foursome with Meighan, Gene Sarazen, and George R. Sims.
Aug. 4, 1933. The Tarpon Springs Leader reports that the Moon Lake lodge was formally opened last Friday night. D. B. McKay, former mayor of Tampa, acted as toastmaster. [According to the article, “There is still much work to be done in beautifying the grounds and completing the remaining cabins. Although there are now about seven cabins complete and in the course of construction Haley plans to have 50 two- and three-room cabins in the development.”]
Sept. 28, 1934. The New Port Richey Press reports that the city, aided by Federal Emergency Relief Act labor, will start work of rehabilitating the 18-hole golf course around Orange Lake on Monday. The newspaper stated that the “famous little golf course ... was very popular in years past and drew crowds from all over.”
Sept. 3-4, 1935. The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 causes extensive damage from flooding and high winds in western Pasco County. The roofs of the Elfers Citrus Growers Exchange and Gulf High School as well as many smaller buildings were heavily damaged. Winds were estimated at 60 to 70 miles per hour. Electricity was knocked out and schools throughout the area were closed for several days.
Dec. 1, 1935. Dr. Elroy McKendree Avery dies in New Port Richey, at age 91.
Dec. 3, 1935. By a margin of 131-29, New Port Richey voters decide to obliterate the municipal golf course that had circled Orange Lake.
Dec. 18, 1936. The New Port Richey Press reports that the Hotel Newport, built in 1914, has been demolished.
1937. The Moon Lake Gardens and Dude Ranch begins operation. [The description of the facility in the WPA Writer’s Project is: “A private game preserve of 7,000 acres enclosed with a wire fence. The tract has been stocked with wild turkeys, deer, otter, beaver, and numerous game birds. Trails wind through the woods and along the shores of Moon Lake; the gardens are planted with azaleas and roses. Various buildings and cottages have been erected for the accommodation of visitors.”]
Jan. 1938. The New Port Richey Theatre opens in the former Meighan Theatre building. [The theater had been closed about four years.]
July 23, 1938. Members of the Florida House of Representatives hold an informal caucus at the new Moon Lake Gardens for the purpose of choosing a speaker for the 1939 session.
March 18, 1939. A gasoline tank truck which weighed about 17 tons crushes the weakened boulevard bridge across the Pithlachascotee River. [The truck was not extricated for two days and drew a continuous stream of onlookers. On March 25, after four days of day and night work by the state road department, Mayor Fred Howard and state road officials broke the ribbon on the repaired bridge.]
June 9, 1939. The New Port Richey Press reports that the two city fire trucks were placed in the new fire hall last weekend. [The new fire station, city clerk’s office, and public library were located in the same new building on Main Street.]
Aug. 14, 1945. New Port Richey residents celebrate the 7 p.m. announcement of the Japanese surrender, ending World War II. The New Port Richey Press reported on Aug. 17: “The siren blew following the President’s pronouncement; folks gathered along the main streets and with their neighbors; many wended their way to churches to pray and give thanks to God. About 8:30 an impromptu parade of several score automobiles preceded by the fire department drove over most of the city and Port Richey, blowing horns and calling gladly to friends as the car drivers and occupants passed the homes of this locality from which over 100 fighting men and the women of the armed forces had left to serve their country and all democracy. There was no attempt at mass exuberance or wild celebration such as reports attribute to many of the larger centers. There was just a feeling of—'Thank God, it’s over now.' Liquor stores closed here promptly with the blowing of the siren, and they remained closed for the 24-hour period, including Wednesday, when almost every type of business activity ceased.”
Feb. 14, 1947. The Chasco Fiesta pageant is revived and presented by the Chasco Junior Women’s Club. [Newspaper accounts at the time called it the first Chasco Fiesta since 1922.]
Jan. 16, 1948. The New Port Richey Press reports that dial telephone service will begin in New Port Richey on Jan. 21.
June 22, 1949. A dedication ceremony is held for the new drawbridge across the Pithlachascotee River on U. S. Highway 19.
Sept. 15, 1950. The New Port Richey Press reports, “W. H. (Tom) Setley brought back from the north recently a television set and, using an aerial set in a tree at his home, reports being able to tune in on television broadcasts from Jacksonville, though 50 miles is the usual limit for good television reception and Jacksonville is about 170 air-line miles away. His set is believed to be the first to operate on television in this area.”
July 15, 1952. Gulf State Bank in New Port Richey opens. The New Port Richey Press reported on July 18, “The convenience of having a bank here is immeasurable.” [The bank opened in the same building which housed the earlier First State Bank. During much of the period after First State Bank had failed, Rollo Draft operated a check cashing service at the site. The bank moved to a new larger building in 1956.]
Nov. 15, 1956. The New Port Richey Press reports that Port Richey City Council on Tuesday read a petition signed by 289 residents asking that Port Richey take “no action, nor encourage” any merger plans of New Port Richey and Port Richey. City council dropped the idea.
Mar. 2, 1957. The new Boulevard Bridge across the Pithlachascotee River is dedicated in a ceremony which opened the Chasco Fiesta. Bands from Gulf High School and Crystal River High School played. The New Port Richey Press reported, “The $200,000 structure replaces a narrow, obsolete span which bottlenecked traffic for 30 years.” One of the speakers, Al Rogero of the State Road Department in Clearwater, promised that a four-lane highway would connect New Port Richey and St. Petersburg within 18 months.
Sept. 12, 1959. The new New Port Richey post office is dedicated.
1960. The city purchases the former Pierce Elementary School as a site for a new city hall.
Jan. 21, 1960. The New Port Richey Press reports that Flor-A-Mar officially opened to the public on Sunday. [The development dated back to 1958 when Howard A. Burkland purchased more than 2,000 acres between the Gulf and U. S. 19. The name was changed to Gulf Harbors. According to Glen Dill, in fiscal year 1964, 7 sales were made; 22 were made in 1965, and 66 in 1966. In 1964, Empire Properties took over the development.]
June 4, 1961. Seven-digit telephone numbers go into effect in New Port Richey.
Dec. 19, 1961. A new $75,000 county government building on Sunset Road opens. [Some offices did not open until Jan. 2, 1962.]
Jan. 4, 1962. The New Port Richey Press reports that a seven-acre site at the southeast corner of U. S. 19 and Main Street has been acquired for the construction of Pasco Plaza, a new shopping center to include a Food Fair supermarket and Neisner’s Junior Department Store.
Dec. 31, 1962. Gulf State Bank in New Port Richey becomes First National Bank.
Oct. 31, 1963. The first radio station in western Pasco county, WGUL, begins broadcasting on 1500-AM in New Port Richey.
June 16, 1964. City council meets for the first time in the newly-remodeled City Hall.
Sept. 1, 1965. West Pasco Hospital opens. [It is apparently the first hospital in western Pasco County except for a hospital which operated briefly at Fivay.]
Dec. 2, 1965. Southgate Shopping Center opens in New Port Richey.
1967. Richey Manor Nursing Home opens, with 60 beds.
Mid-November 1967. A new Main Street bridge in New Port Richey opens to traffic. [The dedication of the bridge took place on Jan. 11, 1968.]
May 21, 1969. The Southgate Rocking Chair Theatre opens.
June 2, 1969. The New Port Richey Press reports that construction has begun on a McDonald’s Restaurant on U. S. 19 in New Port Richey.
Oct. 1970. Four persons are murdered during a robbery inside Dorn’s Hideaway at 8127 Little Road, and a fifth person was murdered by the same killer on the same day at another location in New Port Richey. [In January 1977, when it was the Shangri-La lounge, a topless nightclub, three members of the Outlaw Motorcycle Club followed a man out of the bar and killed him on Moon Lake Road. The bar was later known as Arches, Model T’s, and the Gold N' Spur. In 1989 the Gold N' Spur was damaged by a fire set by an arsonist.]
Aug. 2, 1971. Community Hospital begins admitting patients (West Pasco’s Heritage).
Nov. 11. 1971. The New Port Richey Press reports, “New Port Richey mayor William F. Grey, who has announced he will not run for re-election Dec. 7, is heading an investigation into the possibility of moving the seat of Pasco County government from Dade City to New Port Richey.”
August 1975. The West Pasco Chronicle discontinues publication, merging with the Suncoast Shopper to form the new Suncoast Shopper and News.
Feb. 26, 1976. Ronald Reagan, campaigning for President, speaks at Southgate Shopping Center in New Port Richey.
Mar. 8, 1976. The New Port Richey Press reports that Jimmy Carter, candidate for President, made his second visit to New Port Richey on Thursday, greeting supporters at Southgate Shopping Center.
Mar. 25, 1976. U. S. Sen. Vance Hartke dedicates the opening of Veterans Village.
Sept. 7, 1976. The new post office on Nebraska Avenue opens.
June 14, 1985. The Madison Street bridge in New Port Richey is dedicated.
June 3, 1987. An early morning fire destroys four businesses in downtown New Port Richey and injures 12 firefighters.
1992. Vice President Dan Quayle, seeking re-election, campaigns in New Port Richey, speaking at Sims Park.
1995. All Children’s Hospital opens a clinic in the former Gulf State Bank building in New Port Richey. [Officials planned to move to a larger facility on Little Road in early 2002.]
Sept. 22, 1996. The lodge at the Moon Lake Gardens and Dude Ranch, which had been empty in recent years, is destroyed by an early-morning fire set by an arsonist.
Oct. 7, 2000. Presidential candidate George W. Bush campaigns in Pasco County, speaking at Pasco-Hernando Community College in New Port Richey.
Nov. 2000. The American Indian Movement of Florida calls for a tourist boycott of Pasco County and announces it will begin encouraging major sponsors of the Chasco Fiesta to withdraw their support of the festival, which it calls a “racist, degrading, stereotypical depiction of Native people.” [In Nov. 2002, Chasco Fiesta officials announced they would not hold the Children’s Pageant in 2003.]
March 2002. The New Port Richey police department moves from its Grand Boulevard location to a new building at 6739 Adams St.
June 14, 2002. The state approves requests by both hospitals in New Port Richey—Community and North Bay—to move southeast of the city.
Oct. 19, 2004. President Bush, campaigning for re-election, speaks in Sims Park in New Port Richey.
April 8, 2005. Groundbreaking is held for the Main Street Landing project in downtown New Port Richey.
Sept. 2005. The city of New Port Richey purchases the First Baptist Church property on Orange Lake for $3.1 million.
Oct. 27, 2008. Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for Vice President, speaks at Sims Park. [Five days later, on Nov. 1, Sarah Palin, the Republican candidate for Vice President, spoke at the same location.]
June 24-26, 2012. Tropical Storm Debby causes extensive flooding in western Pasco County.
Early History (1948)The following is excerpted from an article in the New Port Richey Press published on Nov. 5, 1948, and provided by the Chamber of Commerce.
Sometime before the end of the last century, Captain Richey and his wife and daughter established a fish camp and store near the mouth of the River for the benefit of the scattered settlers in these parts and for the fishermen who are said to have filled their nets to overflowing every time they were set. He received a commission as Postmaster and established the first postoffice and named in Port Richey.
The first settlers who came into this section at the time of the Seminole Wars said the land was then covered by a heavy growth of pine. The woods were full of game, panther and bear. Years passed. After this timber was finally lumbered off by the Aripeka Saw Mill Company at Fivay about 1910, the owners of the land, Mr. P. L. Weeks and others, conceived the idea of platting out several sections into 10 acre tracts and laid out a town-site along the banks of the river where New Port Richey now stands. As the Port Richey Company, they opened a sales office in Tampa on Zack street, opposite the Postoffice. Mr. George R. Sims bought the interests of the Port Richey Company in 1913, and carried on the development of this community from then on to the present time. One of the early employees of the Port Richey Company was Gerben DeVries, afterward he became the first Postmaster of New Port Richey and a Temple Orange grower. As Postmaster, he served the town for 20 years, bringing the Postoffice up from fourth class to second class.
During 1914 the community began to show signs of growth, but it still had no postoffice, no stores, no churches, no school and no roads. For a place of worship, the settlers chose the open out-of-doors in the park on the east bank of the Pithlachascotee. On account of the crooked sand trails they had to buck with their Model T’s, some of the citizens became ardent, if not fanatical good-road boosters for hard surfaced roads and paved highways. Senator Mitchell, Judge Holtzscheiter, Gerben DeVries and George R. Sims helped to organize the Florida Highway Association, as there was at that time no Florida State Road Department. One of their main objectives was routing of the Dixie Highway through the scenic portions along the Gulf Coast, part of which later became US 19, and which now, since a new high-speed US 19 is being built through the back country, they expect to keep as Alternate US 19-A because of its scenic beauty and tourist appeal.
There being no direct road to Port Richey in the early days the mail was generally brought up from the post office there by boat and distributed in the Port Richey Company’s office. In 1915 a Post Office was established under the name of New Port Richey.
New Hotel at Port Richey to be Opened (1912)
Flourishing Colony Is Getting a Good Start HereThis article appeared in the Tampa Daily Times on Jan. 20, 1912.
There is much activity at Port Richey, which, because of the development of the colony lands surrounding it, is beginning to take on a new life. The building of the railroad from Tarpon Springs to Port Richey, a distance of seven miles, also has much to do with the improvements now going on.
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.
Mr. McNatt is erecting a new store building and will soon have it filled with a good stock of goods.
The Port Richey colony lands have been open to settlement only a short time, yet a number of ten and twenty acre tracts have been purchased by homeseekers, many of whom have already moved on their lands and are beginning to make improvements. These lands are among the best in Florida, and homeseekers who look them over usually buy, feeling they have found what they were looking for.
No day passes on which one of the Port Richey company’s automobiles does not bring up a party of homeseekers, but Thursday they broke the record by bringing up a party of twenty in four automobiles. These people were from all parts of the United States and had the appearance of belonging to the better class. Many of the party made purchases, selecting orange and truckland.
The recent cold snap was but slightly felt in Port Richey. The temperature in the north was below zero, but at Port Richey the temperature was along in the 40s, and the “spell” lasted only a day and a half. At this writing (January 18) the thermometer stands at 67.
Mr. Horace Everett of the Everett Press company, of Boston, has purchased 25 acres at Port Richey and expects to arrive here soon with a view to erecting a comfortable winter home and planting a large grapefruit grove.
New Port Richey Leads in its First Year (1916)
Location, Scenery and Natural Advantages Aid Hustling Citizens in Town DevelopmentThe following article appeared in the New Port Richey Post in January 1916.
New Port Richey is booming! Development has set in on all sides, and present indications are that there will be more activity in New Port Richey and vicinity this winter than in any other town in Florida.
Here is a partial list of what has happened in less than one year’s time:
Rock road has been constructed by the county at an expense of $135,000, connecting New Port Richey with Tampa, St. Petersburg, Tarpon Springs and other points on the Pinellas Peninsula. This road follows the Gulf Coast north toward Brooksville and is part of the West Coast branch of the Dixie Highway and the old Spanish Trail.
New iron bridge has been constructed by the county over the Cotee River near New Port Richey.
The Tampa & Gulf Coast Railway has inaugurated daily train service between New Port Richey, Tarpon Springs, Tampa, St. Petersburg and other points.
Postoffice has been established and the business every month is showing a phenomenal increase. Local and long distance telephone system has been installed.
A new school house has been completed at a cost of $2,500, and is now in full operation.
A new church has been constructed, which when completed will represent an investment of $3,000. Services are held regularly with a large attendance.
A Community Club has been organized with membership of over fifty, and material has been ordered for a club house which will be located in Enchantment Park. This will be the civic amusement and recreation center for the community.
A number of attractive new homes and bungalows have been built in the townsite by newcomers from the North. Hotel has been built and is doing a good business.
Several new stores have been opened, including a drug store, meat market, dry goods store, shoe store and grocery store.
A large portion of the townsite has been cleared and the brush burned, the largest and best trees being left standing.
The circle around Orange Lake has been cleared grubbed, fenced and planted to Italian Rye and Bermuda grass. Enchantment Park has been cleared of underbrush and planted to grass seed.
Two solid blocks along the river front and adjoining the Boulevard have been cleared and the brush burned.
A Boulevard has been constructed around Orange Lake and through Enchantment Park.
Concrete walks and curbs have been laid around a large portion of Orange Lake.
Hard roads and sidewalks are being constructed on additional streets.
New streets are being laid off and blocks staked out for building sites.
Numerous small farms surrounding New Port Richey have been cleared by new settlers who have built or will build houses and will begin raising crops this spring.
Massachusetts Avenue has been hard-surfaced by the county for almost 1 1/4 miles.
A number of new launches and boats have been added to the number that were already here, and steps are being taken to organize a boat club for the purpose of building a boat house which will be located in Enchantment Park.
Very few towns in Florida can boast of such rapid growth and development. On all sides one hears exclamations of surprise and amazement. A beautiful little city has sprung up out of the brush, almost over night. Those who have been here before and who are now returning to spend another winter are amazed at the changes that have taken place and the natural beauty of the location is being revealed as the land is cleared and improvements put in.
It is the same old climate, which can never be excelled, but it is in reality a New Port Richey that meets the eye as one comes in on the train or by automobile.
The local residents are co-operating in every movement for the advancement and betterment of New Port Richey. These hardy pioneers, most of whom are from the Northern States, are beginning to see their dreams come true.
One of the greatest assets this community possesses is the loyalty, optimism and aggressiveness of its citizens. Their confidence in the future of the city and the surrounding country is beginning to be shared by residents of Tampa, St. Petersburg and other cities, and every indication points to the rapid growth of this new Gulf Coast city.
New Port Richey Postoffice
By GERBEN M. DEVRIES
This article appeared in the New Port Richey Press on Jan. 27, 1921.
Six or seven years ago there was no post office here—there was no New Port Richey, in fact. Those of us who lived in this part got our mail from Port Richey. No direct road connected what is now New Port Richey and Port Richey. There was an old wagon trail by way of the Casson house and the old Clark grove, and there was a shorter woods path along what is now Madison street, thence on through the Casson place, and coming out at the point where the Herms floral gardens are now located. The other route was by row boat down the river. We generally took the latter, and caught our supper and breakfast by trauling as we went. I remember one day I caught 36 trout and jack fish trauling to Port Richey after the mail. Generally the one who went got the mail for the rest of the bunch. He was also expected to bring back two fish for each letter. If there were a dozen letters it was up to him to catch 24 fish. As we increased in population we tired of this.
It was reasoned that the Star Route carrier might just as well return to Tarpon Springs on this side of the river, and leave our mail in boxes instead of going back on the other side over the Old Post Road. So we set apart a day and cleared a road through the Hill place (now the Casson farm) and down part of what is now Madison street; and along this route we put up our mail boxes. But the carrier, Driver by name, had a will of his own which we had not reckoned with, and he would not accept this as his routing, hence all our work went for nothing. This disappointment, however, did not peeve us. We said, “If we cannot be served by carrier from Port Richey we will get a postoffice of our own.”
It was suggested by the Port Richey Company, by Mr. Holzscheiter and others that I circulate two petitions, one for a postoffice here, the other for my being appointed postmaster. I really did not consider the job worth having, but the Port Richey Company, by whom I was then employed, said I could put the postoffice in their office building, which was then standing in the middle of Main street, surrounded by saw-palmetto, and they would not deduct anything from my wages for the time consumed in taking care of the mail. Under these conditions, then, I set about getting everybody south of the Herms property to sign the petitions. They were presented with about 80 names, as I remember, the one seeking appointment as postmaster being the duplicate of the other so far as signatures were concerned. In due time the petitions were acted upon, and I was examined for the important position of postmaster. But a delay occurred in establishing the office on account of our not choosing a suitable name. The department contended that since there was already a Newport Florida and a Port Richey, Florida Newport-Richey would lead to errors and confusion. Quite a number then favored calling the place Chascotee, after the latter part of our river’s name. This, too was considered unsuitable by the land company and many of us settlers, who had done so much advertising under the name of Port Richey. We got in touch with our congressman—Hon. Mr. Sparkman, and on his suggestion, got up another petition, asking that the place be named New Port Richey, dividing “Newport” into two words. After some correspondence the department accepted this naming. A copy of this petition is now on file in the Avery Library and Historical Society’s rooms, with the original signatures copied.
I received my commission as postmaster dated July 21st, 1915, but, as I did not at once receive my supplies and regulations, the office was not established until August 30th, 1915. In the meantime I had given up my position with the Port Richey Company, and Hermanson and Draft (the Port Richey Lumber and Hardware Co.) kindly consented to locate the office in their building. They gave me a space 4x6 feet, which, then, was plenty big enough. We rigged up a dry-goods box in this space for general delivery, and the first month’s cancellation amounted to $25.81. The money order business was not added until November 1st, 1915. If the postmaster was on hand to receive and despatch the mail it was deemed sufficient. The rest of the day the postmaster spent in grubbing and clearing land, and boosting for New Port Richey. He even bought an old typewriter to write more letters to his friends about this wonderful place. From that day the business of the postoffice has steadily grown. What was a month’s work in this office five years ago is frequently the ordinary work of a single day now. Last July we advanced to the third class, and have outgrown our quarters. We must have more room and more lock-boxes. Nearly double the latter are required at the present time. The office remained only a few months in the hardware store—then it was moved to the drug store, and finally to the Haven’s building, east side. Two years ago it was moved to the west side, where it is at present housed. We have grown to a point where we need a modern brick postoffice building in the town. It is hoped the department will be in a position to allow sufficient rental to at least pay the interest, insurance and taxes on such a place.
A reliable authority estimates our present population about 1500. I can confirm that figure. But the postal business is almost double that of the same size town where the inhabitants have lived from childhood up. Practically all of our patrons still get their northern daily newspapers and they get everything in fourth-class matter from a sack of onions off the old home place to a suit of clothes from a Chicago or New York tailor. The job of running a post office efficiently is a trying one. It is hard work, but we enjoy it. We try to make as few mistakes as possible. As to the future of New Port Richey postoffice unless we hurry we shall be in the second class before the town is even incorporated. I believe we are going to get into the second-class much quicker than it took to rise from the beginning into our present rank of third-class. That will mean better office quarters, better facilities for handling the mail, ample clerical help and free village delivery, with probably more than one mail a day. If I am permitted to serve you at that time I shall be glad. If someone else serves you the greater honor shall still be mine for having been so closely connected with the development of this postoffice up to its present stage.
Jasmin Point’s $300,000 Golf Club (1927)
Burns-Becker Corporation Plan 18 Hole Course From Cotee’s Riverbank To GulfThe following article appeared in the New Port Richey Press on Feb. 18, 1927.
By GEORGE G. HOLLAND
An eighteen-hole golf course, with a country clubhouse and swimming pool, the complete layout fringed by villa sites, will be built on some 200 acres of land west of the Cotee river, it is announced by the Burns-Becker Corporation.
Construction of the course will begin as soon as legal formalities are completed. Nine holes of the course, it is expected, will be playable by next winter. The new institution is to be known as the Jasmin Point Golf Club. Its authorized capital is $300,000.
These are some of the facts in connection with the latest undertaking of the Burns-Becker interests, which were made public yesterday by Warren E. Burns. The Burns-Becker company has been working quietly for some weeks, assembling sufficient land to make the area of the links sufficient. More than 200 acres of choice property, lying between the west bank of the river and the gulf of Mexico, are involved in the project.
Eighty acres of land owned by the Dickinson interests of St. Petersburg have been purchased by the Burns-Becker Corporation for the new golf course. This property adjoins Jasmin Point Estates, and is, in part, the former A. K. LaMotte holdings. The site of the old La Motte residence will probably be the site of the new clubhouse. The clubhouse, it is made known, will not be attempted immediately. Work on the links is to be started forthwith, however.
Stock memberships in the club limited to 100 persons under present plans, with additional members to be taken in from time to time, will be sold at $1,000 each. This money will be devoted to improvement of the land, and the memberships will also share in pro rata in the realty transactions, that is the sale of villa sites which will surround the course. The proposition is similar to that of Soundviewe Golf Club in Greatneck, L. I., the building of which years ago by Charles Harrison Goddard, was the chief factor in Greatneck’s surge forward as one of the most famous suburbs of Greater New York.
The clubhouse, according to [illegible] around which was built Great Neck estates, and the sale of land netted Mr. Goddard several millions of dollars, with the property of the gulf links having become recently so valuable that the entire course has been sold for a staggering sum of money.
The topography of the country secured by the Burns-Becker Corporation for their latest development project is considered ideally suited from the standpoint of golf architecture. Many of the hazards have been provided by nature, the course skirting a pretty assortment of bayous and small lakes. The large lake west of the La Motte home is to be made into a large swimming pool.
The La Motte or Dickinson property was purchased for the sum of $100,000, it is made known, one of the highest prices ever paid in this section for a large tract of property.
The clubhouse, according to plans, will front on the river and the last hole will be approached from the west, so that homecoming golfers will have played from the river to the gulf and back to the river again. The enterprise, first official news of which is contained in today’s Press, is bound to be construed as one of the most important steps yet made in assuring New Port Richey’s popularity as a high-class tourist-resort town.
A Look Back, at City, Fiesta, and Fun (1968)
This article appeared in a March 1968 newspaper.
There aren’t too many areas left in the continental United States, I guess, where 20 years residence makes you an early settler, and 50 years makes you a pioneer or founding father, but here in Florida is one of the few such places left in our country.
When we first saw New Port Richey in Feb. of 1947, there was still some of that frontier atmosphere - so perhaps recalling some of the times and places of that time will provide a pleasant journey down memory lane for older residents and will be of interest to newer citizens of the area as well.
To begin with, U. S. 19 had not yet reached New Port Richey, altho it was nearing completion, but the traffic was carried thru the part of town on Boulevard South, then Elfers and on down what is now Alt. 19 (altho it has since been changed in places too.)
Several of the buildings that were here then are gone now, and of course many many more have been added.
Among the best remembered buildings that have vanished from the scene is the Kentucky Inn, a hotel that was run by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Fleharty. Mr. Fleharty had been an assistant to the Attorney General of the United States thru the administrations of Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover and Roosevelt’s first two terms, and Mrs. Fleharty had been a popular Washington hostess who had entertained the famous and political leaders of the era in which her husband was in Washington.
The lobby of the old hotel contained many valuable paintings and works of art that the Flehartys had collected, and was in surprising contrast to the spartan comforts of the private rooms which had no heat. The place was immaculately clean, and in the lobby where the only heater was located, Mrs. Fleharty acted as a charming hostess to the guests who assembled there to thaw out, when a “Northwester” blew in.
At that time Mr. and Mrs. Fred Miller operated a large restaurant where Millers Bar is now located, and the food served there was a treat for the most discriminating diner.
Roscoes Drug store, which was located where Jensens Insurance Agency is now, was the “In” place to go for a soda after the Chasco Fiesta, for the ladies, while their husbands usually repaired to the emporiums serving stronger beverages.
The block where Roscoes is now located, was, with the exception of the bank building at one end, and Bragg Jewelers at the other end, a common, that in spring was covered with a rainbow carpet of phlox.
A few years later, Wintle Long built the building that now houses The Chronicle, and in the vacant lot, raised a thriving garden. His tomatoes were the envy of all the local gardeners.
At that time, part of the revenue that was derived from the fiesta was obtained from the custom of fining citizens who appeared on the streets without the proper Indian head dress.
The jail of palm fronds that is always erected at the corner of Main St. and Boulevard served as a place of confinement until the fine or ransom was paid.
Most everyone joined in the fun and gladly paid their fine it they were caught sans Indian headgear, but the time came when some of the paleface tourists complained that they were being scalped, so the practice of collecting wampum was discontinued, but the jail is erected each year, as a reminder of “the good old days.”
In aiding our own memory we did some research at the New Port Richey Public library and found an item of particular interest, a Chamber of Commerce type brochure for one of the early years. There are some of the inducements listed for settling in New Port Richey.
We quote, “This is one of the fastest growing areas of the state, there are over 100,000 visitors annually to the Tampa-St. Petersburg section.” “A person can provide the comforts of living with an initial investment of $1500 for a site and home, with $50 to $100 a month providing for all other expenses.”
“It is a place where the cost of living does not take every cent.”
“A place where one can live in comfort and independence on a small income, where one can save on rent, fuel and winter clothing.”
“It’s a place where there is an abundance of fish, game and sea food.”
“A place of good neighbors, churches and wholesome moral atmosphere.”
“It’s a place where one can enjoy the comforts and pleasures of small town living, and have a garden all year round.”
You know what? With the exception of the amount of money required to establish and maintain a home here, those qualities listed in the brochure of 40 years ago, are still valid today.
Rudy Snyder Remembers When (1974)This article appeared in the West Pasco Chronicle on Oct. 24, 1974.
Recalling what New Port Richey was like in the 1920’s came easily to Rudy Snyder. Snyder retired from the Post Office in New Port Richey in May of 1974 after 22 years of service in the area. He remembers that in 1925 all that was needed by the post office to serve the several hundred residents was a Post Master and occasional extra help.
The town had only five paved streets, and Snyder says they were Boulevard South, E. Main, Montana, Delaware, Central and around the circle. The bridges on Boulevard South and W. Main were of wood and steel. Snyder said Boulevard South was called the Dixie Highway and was the main route through west Florida.
Railroad tracks ran from Tarpon Springs to New Port Richey along what is now Nebraska Avenue. Snyder said the train either backed into or out of New Port Richey from Tarpon.
He recalled the paving and grading of the streets was done by mule skinners carrying big bull whips for the mules. Rudy lived on Tennessee Avenue which was one of the dirt roads. If two cars were going in opposite directions, he said, one or the other had to pull out of the rut to allow the other to pass.
The several hundred residents lived in the main part of town which ended at the bridge on W. Main and one block north of the Methodist church. He said a smaller community of residents lived out on Jasmine Point. Recalling this, Snyder said that movie star Gloria Swanson maintained a home there.
Rudy remembers trying to plant grass in their yard. He said that due to low pressure it took from five to ten minutes to fill a bucket of water. The town had one well and a reserve tank.
The town had an all volunteer fire department. The only vehicle they had was a brush truck equipped with a reserve tank. Snyder said the fires they fought were mainly grass fires. There were few house fires even though Snyder said the homes were built of pine and cypress wood. There were no cement blocks in the area. All the homes were built on piers off the ground to keep them from being destroyed by termites.
In 1927, Snyder said the town began to install the first septic tank. He remembers they had to blast through rock and it took five to six centrifugal pumps to keep the tide out as they dug the hole for the project.
The high school Rudy attended is the building now occupied by the Pasco-Hernando Community college. The elementary school building is now the City Administration building. While attending high school Rudy played on the baseball and basketball team. They had no football team. Rudy played shortstop on the first team in baseball and was on the second team for basketball. He laughed as he remembered it took most of the boys in the school to make up the teams.
Home plate for the baseball field was located where the Roscoe Drugs building is now. A ball hit into left field landed in the area which is now the Hacienda Hotel.
There were two golf courses. The smaller one was a nine hole course around Orange Lake. On Jasmine Point there was a full 18 hole course. The golf pro at the time was Gene Sarazen. Rudy recalls he wore knickers and on occasion he says he has seen him appear in knickers on TV.
The Hacienda Hotel was built in 1927 and Rudy said it was rumored that it was a front for rum runners. The first theatre in the area was just a shell of a building. Rudy remembers the dirt floor and wood seats. In 1925-26 the Meighan Theatre was built on Boulevard South. The black people in the community who attended the theatre bought their tickets at the box office. They then went to the side of the building where they had to enter up a fire escape and sit in a segregated section of the balcony, Snyder remembered.
While attending school Rudy worked on several of the poultry farms. He said there were many. There also were no range laws, Snyder said. The cattle and other animals roamed free. It was necessary to fence them out. To prevent them from damaging gardens a common sight was for the homes to have cattle guards. Snyder explained this as a culvert that was dug at the entrance to the house, a frame was made and metal or wood poles were laid on the top. The cattle would not cross these. To identify their own cattle or pigs the ears were clipped on the animals by owners.
These cattle guards not only kept the stray cattle out but also excluded other wild animals.
Rudy’s uncle was a fur buyer and he saw many animal pelts. In the area there were bobcats, black bear, deer and otter. Rudy is mentioned in a book written in 1962 by Ralph Bellwood entitled "Tales of West Pasco." In a section Bellwood describes a camping trip in 1930 with Rudy and two small boys at Moon Lake. They were awakened in the middle of the night by the screams of a panther. Rudy said the area was mighty wild then.
Rudy left Florida in 1932 and moved to Ohio. There he met and married his wife Mabel. While living in Ohio Rudy served in World War II. In 1954, with his wife and son Les, they came back to New Port Richey. Les is now a graduate of the University of Florida.
The Snyders remain very active in New Port Richey. They both are active members of the Gulf High Booster Club. On a wall they proudly display plaques naming them as lifetime members. Another plaque was awarded to Rudy by the Sertoma for citizen of the year. When Rudy retired in May he was honored by 50 members of the Post Office.
Reflections of John Grey (1987)The following article appeared in the Pasco Times in 1987, the centennial year of Pasco county.
Editor’s note: John Grey, 42, is president of F. I. Grey and Son, the real estate company his grandfather started in 1924.
By JOHN GREY
I was born in New Port Richey in 1944 and have lived here ever since. So even though I'm not an old-timer, I guess I am a long-timer.
As I was growing up in New Port Richey there were very few paved streets. Most of what is now the city was still woods. Everyone knew everyone, and you never passed anyone without saying hello or waving. We had one telephone operator, Hilda Anderson, and she would always help you if there was a problem.
Chasco Fiesta was a really big event in my childhood days -- everyone in town dressed as Indians for one long weekend a year. Sims Park was full of all types of homemade food and games. The major events were the Indian pageant, Des Little Bar-B-Q and the Sunday boat parade. Most years there would be 150 to 200 decorated boats. They would come from Clearwater to Weeki Wachee to join the fun.
Another fond memory of mine was baseball. I played in the first Little League West Pasco ever had. There were two teams -- one coached by my Dad, Jim Grey, and one coached by Fred Marchman -- our uniforms were T-shirts and blue jeans, and we played each other every Saturday. By 1957 they had six Little League and four Pony League teams and games were being played on St. Clair Field on Gulf Drive.
I went to grammar school at Pierce Elementary (now City Hall) and high school (7-12) at what is now Schwettman Adult Education. In high school we played all our home basketball games on either the old school outdoor court next to the river or on the court at Sims Park. I can tell you some of those night games at Sims Park in the winter were pretty cold.
I remember the 1959 baseball team. We had won the conference and were runner-up in the state, and we had a big assembly and presented the trophy. Then we promptly threw all the male coaches and faculty in the river from the bridge, fully dressed. Good clean fun!
Roscoe’s Drugstore, then across from the theater at the corner of Boulevard and Nebraska, or Zane Rankins Groceries at the corner of Gulf Drive and Boulevard were the after school hangouts in the 1950s and early '60s.
Roscoe’s was where Jim Fredrick, Bill Dennigar, Tom Kolean and I would pick up our evening papers for our paper routes, Evening Independent. We could play football or baseball right on Boulevard and seldom even have to worry about cars. My route covered from Main Street north and from Washington Street east. Most of the streets were just dirt including most of Massachusetts Avenue and all of Congress.
High school employment from 1960 on -- it seems like half the kids in town worked for Ardean North at North Funeral Homes. For years they ran the ambulance service (for free) and we would all work as ambulance drivers or attendants. It was either the funeral home, Winn Dixie, Potter Bros. Groceries or the orange groves, not a real big choice for employment.
Reflections of Jim Clark (1987)The following article appeared in the Pasco Times in 1987, the centennial year of Pasco county. Mr. Clark (1926-2001) graduated from GHS in 1943. He taught at Gulf from 1950-56.
Editor’s note: Jim Clark, 61, is a retired music teacher who still substitutes at his alma mater, Gulf High School.
By JIM CLARK
I guess you could call me a "native" of New Port Richey, as I was born on the second floor of the Clark Building, now known as the Wag-On-Inn. This building housed a drug store and Pasco Hardware. In 1926 the town was very small, most of the roads were sandy, and everyone knew each other. My father, James W. Clark Jr., lived in this area all his life, having been the first fire chief and also mayor three different times.
The first school I attended was Pierce Elementary School in the fall of 1931. It is the same building City Hall is located. The entire school, grades 1-6, had about 100 students. For many years, the school term lasted only seven months.
From the time I was 8 or 9 years old my two main interests were music and sports. One of my earliest recollections was playing baseball with some of my friends at the city ball park. It was the only ball park in this area, and was in the block where Pasco Office Supply now stands.
Since there was no television, Sunday afternoons were spent at the ball park watching the New Port Richey Semi-Pro Baseball team play various teams in the area. Sometimes a few players were "imported" from Tampa. One of the most inspiring players during this time was a great left-handed power hitter from Elfers named "Stocky" Stockman. He looked very much like Babe Ruth, and I used to marvel at some of the tape-measure home runs he hit. The one that I remember most vividly he sent "downtown" on the top of the Wag-On-Inn. Quite a poke in any ballpark!
During this time we also had an outstanding black baseball team called the New Port Richey Bluebirds. They beat many of the semi-pro teams in Central Florida.
In the fall of 1937 I entered Gulf High School, one of only two high schools in Pasco County.
Three teachers that I remember very well were J. H. St. Clair, H. J. McIntyre and Fred Marchman. Professor St. Clair was a really great teacher who inspired his students, and commanded great respect. Mac, as the kids all called him, and Fred spent many years on the Gulf High staff as shop and mathematics teachers respectively. St. Clair Field is named after Mr. St. Clair, and Marchman Vocational School after Mr. Marchman.
In 1937 Gulf had only two sports, basketball and baseball. They did have football teams there in the early '30s, but dropped the sport. The basketball team played on an outside court made of "screen" or fine rock. It was on the south side of what is now Schwettman Adult Education Center. Baseball was played on the town field.
In 1938 the football program was renewed.
In my senior year at Gulf I finally had an opportunity to play football, after playing basketball and baseball. I had some knee problems, but managed to hold my own on a team that went 5-2-1 for the season.
Because of gas rationing, football was the only sport at Gulf High during my senior year (1942-43). Watching Dennis Line perform as the kicker for Gulf this past year and playing trumpet in the band brought back many memories for me. During the football season I played entire games at center and linebacker, and then marched in the Gulf Band at halftime. All this was in my football uniform with my big sousaphone. Great fun!
After college my first teaching position was music director at Gulf High School, which had about 300 students in grade 7-12. I directed the band and chorus there from 1950-56. My marching band had 60 members.
During these three decades, New Port Richey had just begun to grow a little. By 1960, it was still a small town by today’s standards. I do know that I enjoyed these years because everyone knew the people around them. I still enjoy living here, but it was nice when it was smaller. I married in 1954, and have lived in the same area for the last 31 years -- Virginia Avenue. All four of my children graduated from Gulf.
The Mayors of New Port Richey
In 1934 James Washington Clark Jr. attended some city council meetings, although Marx Goodman seems to have presided even at those meetings.
Charles Friedly resigned in Aug. 1956. Clair Kohler became acting mayor before becoming mayor.
New Port Richey’s Friendly Churches (1947)This article appeared in Literary Florida in October 1947.
By MRS. CHAS H. HUNTER
NEW PORT RICHEY, one of the prettiest small communities located on the west coast of Florida nestling among the palms, flowering shrubs, and fruit trees, boasts of six denominational churches to serve its people.
Back in 1914, the citizens of this community gathered together in the palm grove at the edge of the Pithlachascotee River now known as Sims Park, and conducted services for all who had located here. This was the beginning of religious services here and finally was the means of the different denominations to organize their own special church.
The Methodist Church, built in 1916 on Pennsylvania Avenue, has been enlarged and improved as the years have gone by and now is one of the leading churches in the vicinity, with Rev. A. J. Armstrong, an energetic young man serving his people at the present time. Plans are now in progress for the erection of an educational building, the refinishing of the exterior of the present church plant, and the making of a parking lot near by.
The First Baptist Church located on Central Avenue, was built in 1926, having organized about 1918 in a small store building on the site of the old John Snell home corner of Central Avenue and Adams Street, later going to the Snell Hall on Main Street, which is now demolished, to hold services. This church edifice has been improved during the past years and all organizations connected with it are active year around. Rev. A. J. Hoolsema is the present pastor.
The Community Congregational Church, located on the circle, was organized in 1921, after holding services at the old Snell Hall on Main Street. That same year a church building was erected, where it still stands. During the passing of the years several pastors have served the congregation and now Rev. Floyd H. Andrus will complete his six years as pastor on October 1.
Additions have been placed on the rear of the main edifice to afford room for its activities, with many improvements being made from time to time.
The first interest shown in the movement of forming a Christian Science organization here was due to the healing of one of the local residents, who, after being healed of her serious malady, invited a group of people to her home to begin meetings of this faith, in 1919.
In 1924 the group held meetings at the Woman’s Club on Main Street, east of the post office location, when regular readers were chosen. During the same year (1924) they moved to the Civic Club in Sims Park. In January of 1928 they became a recognized branch of the Mother Church continuing to hold services there until February of 1939 when services were discontinued owing to so many leaving the city. In February of 1947, services were again resumed at the Civic Club.
Our Lady Queen of peace Catholic Church held its first mass in a private home in 1914, with Rev. Father Felix, the first pastor, continuing to serve until 1919. The present church was built in 1919, and in 1921, the Rectory was completed.
A meeting place was deemed necessary so in 1931 the present Catholic Hall was built next to the church on Washington Street. Outside of the American Legion Hall, it is the only hall of any size where denominational meetings are held. At present, with a resident congregation of about 70 families, it is necessary to have two Masses on Sunday mornings.
Rev. Father Maurus Cook is the present pastor.
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was organized by a small group of local residents and in 1926 the present edifice was built, which is located on Jefferson Street. Many improvements have been made during intervening years, with a parish house added to the rear of the church a few years later.
Rev. E. B. Robinson of Dunedin serves as pastor of this church, along with several others in this section on his circuit.
All the churches show a marked increase in attendance when the visitors return south for the winter season.