NEW PORT RICHEY – There’s a lot of “new” happening in downtown New Port Richey, but last week was an occasion to celebrate the town’s history.
The city’s first brick building was built in the spring of 1919 at the southeast corner of Main Street and Grand Boulevard and community leaders, businesspeople and residents celebrated its centennial on June 14. Currently occupied by Pontlitz Asset Advisors, the grey-brick structure is often referred to as the Land Office of George R. Sims, recognized as the founder of New Port Richey. Sims’ Port Richey Land Company sold parcels from the building that was originally intended to serve as a bank and has subsequently changed hands multiple times.
Derek Pontlitz, owner of Pontlitz Asset Advisors, put together last Friday’s centennial celebration with help from other downtown business owners and community members.
“I’ve studied the history of the building ever since I’ve been here; August will be nine years,” Pontlitz said after a ceremony dedicating a new plaque affixed to the exterior next to the Main Street side front door. “I’ve also known the building has historical significance. At Fivay.org, the guys over there keep track of the history of Pasco County. Between them and the (West Pasco Historical Society) museum I was able to learn more about it. That’s how I found out the age.”
In addition to the plaque dedication, which Pontlitz unveiled with the help of current King Pithla, Paul Friedlander, Mayor Robert Marlowe read a proclamation that declared June 14 as Land Office Centennial Celebration Day and West Pasco Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tim McClain addressed attendees.
“The West Pasco Chamber of Commerce recognizes the impact that this structure has had as a consistent catalyst for both economic and community improvements throughout the years,” McClain said.
Rather than limiting last Friday’s celebration to a brief commemoration and plaque unveiling, Pontlitz said he wanted it to be an evening-long event that highlights other historically significant New Port Richey buildings.
“I said if I was going to still be here I wanted to have a 100-year party,” Pontlitz said, mentioning his intentions to organize an event for years. “But I wanted it to be more than just about a spotlight on my business, or even just about the building, but about the whole town. The whole town has a lot of historic buildings and I think building on that history is what will allow us to move forward. There’s a lot of great things going on downtown.”
The celebration’s schedule of events included self-guided walking tours that seven different nearby buildings: Pontlitz Asset Advisors, People Places and Ordinance One, the Richey Suncoast Theatre, the Chasco Inn, White Heron Tea and Gifts at the Pasco Building, the West Pasco Historical Society’s Rao Musunuru Museum and Library and the Hacienda Hotel.
Guests fortunate enough to purchase tickets in advance took part in two rounds of Ghost Tours hosted by Nicole Ferro, founder of local nonprofit organization Paranormal Kicks Cancer and the Paranormal Research Organization of Florida (P.R.O.O.F.). Both tours were capped at 25 participants each and sold out before Friday’s event. A portion of the $10 ticket proceeds went to benefit the Friends of the Hacienda.
Ferro hosted a VIP/Media ghost tour June 10 in advance of last Friday’s centennial celebration that began at Pontlitz Asset Advisors and made stops at Ordinance One, the Chasco Inn, the White Heron Tea and Gifts, Scott M. McPherson P.A., the Richey Suncoast Theatre and the Hacienda Hotel.