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Secretary of State Announces Greater New Port Richey as Florida Main Street Program of the Month

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Florida Department of State
Kurt S. Browning
Secretary of State

For Immediate Release
April 08, 2009

Joan Jefferson

Secretary of State Announces Greater New Port Richey as Florida Main Street Program of the Month

Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning announced today that Greater New Port Richey Main Street has been designated as the Florida Main Street Program of the Month for April 2009. Communities are selected for this award based on active participation in the Florida Main Street Program.

“New Port Richey Main Street keeps the spirit of its downtown alive,” said Secretary Browning. “It is an attitude every community needs for continual growth and development.”

Located in the northern Tampa Bay area, New Port Richey totals just 4.6 square miles. The city is bordered on the west by the Gulf of Mexico and the Pithlachascotee River flows through its center. The city’s rich history highlights the essence of a small town feel with the mixture of nature, beaches, culture and business.

Founded in 1915, New Port Richey was named after Captain Aaron M. Richey. New Port Richey experienced substantial growth thanks to the efforts of the Port Richey Land Company, the primary developers of the downtown area. The town was promoted as an “ideal retirement area” and service center for outlying farmlands. The expansion of railroad service and the nearby Dixie Highway also served to spur population growth.

During the 1920s, New Port Richey attracted many Hollywood movie stars. The historic Hacienda Hotel was a Spanish-style luxury hotel owned by film stars Thomas Meighan and Gloria Swanson, and local promoter George Sims. Actors built mansions along the Pithlachascotee River and many silent films were created in the area. But long-term plans to draw the motion picture industry to Florida were truncated by the Great Depression. New Port Richey remained a small town, with 14,000 residents in 1990.

Greater New Port Richey was designated as a Florida Main Street Community in 1990. Since its designation, the community has benefited from 127 public and private investment projects totaling more than $41 million, with gains of 95 new businesses and 293 new jobs.

Visitors and residents are welcome to learn about historic New Port Richey’s buildings, founding families, and present-day downtown through walking and boat tours offered by Greater New Port Richey Main Street. These tours also provide an opportunity to see the nature and wildlife of the area. Historic places located in or near the downtown area include The Meighan Theatre, now known as Richey Suncoast Theatre; Sims Park; and Orange Lake.

One of Greater New Port Richey Main Street’s most popular events is the “Heart for Art Gala.” On opening night, February 21, 2009, participants enjoyed an art stroll, silent auction, wine tasting and great food. The Richey Suncoast Theatre, managed by Charlie Skelton, facilitated live entertainment and performances. The event was co-hosted with Progress Energy Art Gallery. Visual art featured photographs of foster children waiting to be adopted. This year’s event theme, “Some Like It Hot at Charlie’s” was influenced by the Billy Wilder comedy film, “Some Like It Hot.” The movie’s 1920s Florida setting inspired the invitation for attendees to come dressed in attire of that era.

Another signature event for Greater New Port Richey Main Street is the annual Cotee River Seafood Festival, which will be held on May 8-10. An exciting mix of music, vendors, food and fun will be provided for the entire family to enjoy. Residents and visitors are encouraged to take advantage of this great opportunity to see and experience what New Port Richey has to offer.

Florida Main Street is a technical assistance program of the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State. The Bureau conducts statewide programs aimed at identifying, evaluating, and preserving Florida's historical resources. Main Street, with its emphasis on preservation, is an effective strategy for achieving these goals in Florida's historic retail districts. Since 1985, the Bureau has offered manager training, consultant team visits, design and other technical assistance, as well as the benefit of experience gained by other Florida Main Street programs.

To learn more about Greater New Port Richey Main Street, visit www.nprmainstreet.com or contact Judy DeBella Thomas at 727.842.8066 or by e-mail at judy@nprmainstreet.com.

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