The Hacienda Hotel, built in 1927, again reigns as the glamorous star of downtown New Port Richey, located 50 minutes north of Tampa.
It’s glorious that another rare Old Florida building has been saved and beautifully restored. Few buildings of its era look this good.
The pink stucco confection in Spanish Colonial architectural style reopened in September 2022 after decades of decay and closure. Ninety-five years earlier, it debuted with fanfare with a famous comedian of the day, Ed Wynn, as master of ceremony. Soon celebrities (many no longer household names) flocked here, including Thomas Meighan, Lupe Velez, Charlie Chaplin and Ann Harding.
New Port Richey was a popular site for their winter homes and some called it “Hollywood East.”
Through the first decades, the Hacienda thrived and was the place to have weddings, proms and special events in New Port Richey. But then several decades of decline followed, with the Hacienda becoming an adult congregate living facility and deteriorating into an eyesore.
Eventually, it looked like the Hacienda Hotel’s next special event was a date with the wrecking ball.
The Hacienda Hotel is reborn
Thank goodness, local people cared. They formed Friends of the Hacienda and Historic New Port Richey and the hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996 during its period of decline.
Eventually a successful hotelier, Jim Gunderson, took on the multi-year renovation project working with some state grants in an agreement with the city, which owned the property since 2004. Gunderson was the ideal choice – a few years earlier he had purchased and refurbished another grand hotel that had fallen on hard times – the 1883 Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora. He now operates them both.
Gunderson believes in historic buildings and it shows.
The loving restoration of the Hacienda Hotel preserves so much of its original elegance. The chandeliers that grace the lobby are the originals from 1927. The lobby fireplace is a restored original. The hotel exterior is built around a graceful courtyard and at its center is the original 1927 fountain.
The Hacienda Hotel originally had 40 rooms and it still does. The rooms are pretty and comfortable but not lavish, and the same is true of the moderate prices. Most rooms are from $140 to $170, with a king suite ideal for families going for $190 to $250.
The charm of the Hacienda Hotel
The hotel’s lobby is large with a big archway dividing it from the restaurant and bar. The restaurant, Sasha’s on the Park, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The bar is a full-service operation creating hand-crafted cocktails at a bar counter made from wood reclaimed during the restoration. Our drinks were outstanding.
We took our cocktails outside to the beautiful courtyard, well-shaded in the afternoon, and sat at a table listening to gentle sounds of that exquisite 1927 fountain.
The hotel’s brochure suggests you also can take your ”beverage of choice” to the second-floor balcony and relax in a rocking chair. It would be a great place for morning coffee too. The balcony overlooks a leafy park and the best part of the view is gazing through the Hacienda Hotel pillars and over its courtyard.
The two-story hotel has an elevator but also a beautiful curving stairway with wrought-iron railing – just the stairs for a bride to descend.
Brides will be there, I’m sure. When we visited, a faux wedding was set up for a promotional photo shoot, with chairs for guests on the rear patio of the hotel and models dressed as bride and groom.
I have no question the Hacienda Hotel will again be THE place for your event in New Port Richey.
official website and reservations
5621 Main St, New Port Richey, FL 34652
Is the Hacienda Hotel haunted? It seems to me that every historic hotel is said to have ghosts, and here’s a podcast about paranormal activities at the Hacienda.
What celebrities stayed at the Hacienda Hotel? You’ll find a list of some of the famous people of the time who stayed at the hotel in this interesting Tampa blog
Who was the architect of the Hacienda Hotel? Thomas Reed Martin, who also designed the iconic Columbia Restaurant in Tampa among many others.
Downtown New Port Richey: Again a draw, like the Hacienda
The Hacienda is built on Main Street, and the friendly gentleman at the desk confided: A few years ago, you wouldn’t have come to this area. When the hotel was a group home, it was not a place you wanted to hang around.
Downtown redevelopment, however, has transformed New Port Richey and the Hacienda Hotel is a key ingredient.
The hotel is located on the river that brought people to New Port Riche – the Pithlachascotee River, which everyone shortens to the Cotee River. Connecting the hotel and the Cotee, there are paved walkways, which continue for a scenic block along the river and then arc through Sims Park.
Sims Park has an amphitheater and a water playground. In March every year, it is home to the Chasco Festival, a nine-day festival with parades (by land on opening weekend and by boat on closing weekend), concerts, a carnival plus all the sorts of foods, competitions and exhibits. New Port Richey has had a Chasco Festival for 101 years!
Sims Park extends west around circular Orange Lake, with attractive landscaping, walkways, flocks of birds, benches and gazebos. These days, the neighborhood around the Hacienda is an attractive place.
Main Street and intersecting Grand Avenue are home to several restored historic buildings. One of the oldest buildings is the Thomas Meighan Theatre, named for the silent-movie star who built a large winter home in New Port Richey. The first movie shows was Meighan’s “The New Klondike,” a story set during Florida’s 1920s land boom. The theater is still in use and it looks remarkably like its historic photos.
The downtown is now home to several good restaurants.
We had a great dinner at a sidewalk table at The Social, oblivious to the lively bar scene and rooftop bar for which the place is known. Our second dinner was outdoors across the street from the Hacienda at Backdraughts Pizza, a family owned spot with excellent wood-fire pizza and craft beer, adjacent to a draft brewery, Infusion Brewing Company. If we’d stayed more nights, we would have tried some other highly rated spots all within walking distance of The Hacienda.
Things to do in New Port Richey area
Driving into New Port Richey, we drove north on US 19 through mile after mile suburban sprawl. Off the highway, however, we found natural beauty and the historic downtown.
Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park is 15 minutes from downtown New Port Richey. It’s a good place for kayaking into the Gulf past the region’s historic stilt houses. East of town there is excellent hiking and a seven-mile smooth, paved bike trail through the forest at nearby Starke Wildnerness Park, which is covered in the Werner-Boyce article.
Boating is popular in this area and there are a number of very popular waterfront restaurants and bars – so popular we had trouble getting parking at them on a Thursday night in season. Check TripAdvisor or Yelp for listings.
If you’re visiting the area, we recommend these spots in the region covered in Florida Rambler articles:
- Tarpon Springs: Visit dazzling island of Anclote Key on boat from Sponge Docks
- Pinellas Trail, the most popular bike trail in Florida
- Best camping near Tampa Bay: 9 choice campgrounds
- Hillsborough River State Park adds ‘glam’ to its camping options
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.