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A trip to old Hollywood in New Port Richey

Museum? Sure. But it’s more like a curiosity shop where kitsch meets history.

Photo by Theresa Willingham

Museum? Sure. But it’s more like a curiosity shop where kitsch meets history.

The scoop: The West Pasco Historical Society Museum is a hidden treasure tucked across the street from Sims Park in New Port Richey. It's full of the archaic, unusual and wonderful, and there isn't a better deal around for the buck admission.

Why go? Housed in the former Seven Springs school house, circa 1914 to 1925, the place is equal parts kitschy antiques, strange Hollywood history and novelty shop. In short, it's a browser's delight. From the gift shop to the library, the place is a tumble of motley collections ranging from Civil War swords and uniforms, to silent movie memorabilia and an Indian Gallery.

Time stamp: We quite literally stumbled onto the museum one Friday. The little collection of white clapboard buildings by Sims Park caught our attention and we noticed the "open" sign and went in.

Field report: A friendly and enthusiastic docent oriented us to the location of the collections, but it was hard to see any rhyme or reason to where things were, which was just fine with us. It was far more fun to wander about. Particularly fascinating was the 1920s movie memorabilia. In 1926, Thomas Meighan, the early 20th century's equivalent of, say, Orlando Bloom, wanted to set up shop in New Port Richey. Meighan was one of Hollywood's favorite leading men, earning a whopping $5,000 to $10,000 a week, 10 times what most people then made in a year. A New Port Richey Press headline reported at the time, "Famous Millionaires of Broadway buy in New Port Richey."Thomas Meighan and Paul Whiteman, Irving Berlin, Sam H. Harris Among Celebrities Who Have Purchased Here." The boom was as short-lived as silent films, but Meighan and his star-studded friends left behind some great trinkets, including Hollywood posters, costumes, playbills and jewelry. Besides the movie goodies, there were antique cameras, a printing press, Native American clothing, handmade quilts, arrowhead collections, old toys, furniture and more.

Upon further review: This is a great little place, rivaling some of the large history museums in Tampa Bay. The museum also houses an impressive historical library with a large selection of photographs and maps. The gift shop features a healthy collection of art from local crafters, including mixed-media, jewelry and a selection of local history books.

Do it again? It's definitely worth a stop when in New Port Richey, especially to check out various temporary exhibits throughout the year.

Details: West Pasco Historical Society Museum and Library, 6431 Circle Blvd., New Port Richey. Hours are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays, and 1 to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays except in June and July. (727) 847-0680. www.rootsweb.com/~flwphs/about_us.html.

A trip to old Hollywood in New Port Richey 04/03/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 10:05am]

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