New Port Richey, Florida – When it came to doing something special for New Port Richey, Kelly Hackman, owner of The White Heron Tea & Gifts, knew exactly what she wanted to do. A native of New Port Richey, her love of the local area has always been prevalent in all she does. So in 2015, as she worked to open her downtown gifts shop and tea room, she also worked with the Richey Suncoast Theatre to produce the first of a series of ornaments depicting the beautiful historic New Port Richey buildings. The first year’s ornament was a success, selling over 200 during the holiday season alone.
Keeping with her promise to make the ornament an annual offering, Hackman is ready to begin work on the 2016 ornament. But this year, instead of deciding which building to depict, she is leaving that decision up to the community.
“We have been asked by so many different people and groups to consider their buildings for this year that it has been quite overwhelming,” Hackman stated. “Therefore, I thought the best thing to do to be sure we pick a building that the community wants, is to let the community decide.” The 2016 ornament is a toss-up between three iconic community buildings. They include:
The Hacienda Hotel: The Hacienda Hotel opened to the public on February 17, 1927. More than 120 persons attended the event sponsored by the City of New Port Richey. The Hacienda would become a focal point in New Port Richey, with its grandeur and beautiful Spanish style architecture. The Hacienda, throughout its history, has operated as a hotel and also as an ACLF for persons 18 and older who were free of acute conditions or infectious disease. Before purchase by the City of New Port Richey in 2003, it was most recently utilized as a 75-bed home for elderly persons with mental disabilities. In 1996, the Hacienda Hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places and today is being renovated with the intentions of being reopened as a boutique hotel and becoming a mecca of cultural activity in the future. Funds raised through sales of a Hacienda ornament will go to the Friends of the Hacienda to support projects at the hotel and around New Port Richey.
The New Port Richey Library Building: The library was founded by Elroy M. Avery as the Avery Library and Historical Society. The charters and papers of incorporation were created on December 22, 1919; the Avery Library and Historical Society formally opened with a collection of approximately 2,000 volumes on April 10, 1920. The current library building is located on the site of the former Pierce Elementary School. The school was originally built in 1926. When moving the library to the current location, the plans called for the total gutting of the interior of the building with only three red brick walls left standing. The walls were preserved in order to retain the English Renaissance styling. Funds raised through sales of a New Port Richey Library ornament will go the Friends of the New Port Richey Library to support library programs and needs.
The West Pasco Historical Society Schoolhouse: The West Pasco Historical Society is housed in a building which originally served as the Seven Springs school house. The school was apparently in operation from 1913 to 1925, but the schoolhouse which became our home was apparently built in early 1915. The building subsequently became a private residence. It was moved to Sims Park over several days in October 1981 and dedicated on January 16, 1983. The Library addition was added in 1992. The interior of the building was extensively remodeled in 2010-11. At the grand re-opening ceremony on Sept. 10, 2011, the museum was re-named the Rao Musunuru, M. D., Museum and Library, in honor of a significant donor for the museum renovation. Funds raised through sales of a West Pasco Historical Society ornament will go to the West Pasco Historical Society for their various projects.
The organization’s building that is chosen will have the 2016 ornament designed with their building, including a history of the building on the ornament box. Additionally, they will receive a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the ornaments. The amount depends on the number of ornaments sold.
“We plan on completing ornaments for each of these buildings in the coming years, it was just too hard to decide on which one we should do this year,” Hackman says. “In the long run we are excited to be able to help out each of these groups by creating a unique gift item, helping to preserve history, and to help support these groups.”
The community is invited to vote for their favorite beginning Tuesday, March 15th. Voting takes place at The White Heron Tea & Gifts located at 6228 Grand Boulevard, in historic downtown New Port Richey (located in the building across from the Richey Suncoast Theatre). Voting will be open on Tuesday, March 15th through Saturday, March 26th. The White Heron is open each Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm. Voting can be done any time during open hours each day. Each person can only vote once.
“We are excited about opening this selection up to the community this year,” stated Hackman. “The community is always supportive of what they choose and I know they won’t let us down with their selection.”
Once the votes are tallied and the winning building’s group is notified, Hackman will begin working with her ornament designer, Tom Pollard Designs out of Pennsylvania, to create this year’s piece. It is expected that the ornaments for 2016 will be available for purchase in October. In the meantime, ornaments of the Richey Suncoast Theatre are still available and will be until they are sold out.