The West Pasco Historical Society and Museum, New Port Richey, Florida
Despite having made countless trips to the west coast of Florida over the last 30 years, I just recently discovered a very interesting museum located in Sims Park in the heart of New Port Richey (about 30 miles north of Clearwater). The West Pasco Historical Society was formed in 1973 and has been educating visitors ever since with a unique look back at the history of this coastal region of Florida. The museum is housed in the former Seven Springs schoolhouse, which was built in 1915.
History of the Museum
The old schoolhouse itself has a long history in Pasco County, having served as a school until 1925. The building was subsequently sold and became a private residence for many years. In 1981, the West Pasco Historical Society became interested in the property when it again was sold. After months of planning, negotiation, and a lot of hard work, the building was purchased by the Historical Society and relocated to Sims Park.
Two years of extensive renovations followed, and on January 16, 1983, the building was finally opened to the public. In 1992 a library was added, and in 2011 the interior of the museum was again remodeled. At the grand re-opening in 2011, the museum was renamed the Rao Musunuru MD Museum and Library, named after a very generous local donor.
What to See in the Museum
The museum offers visitors a unique glimpse into what life was like decades ago in this part of Florida. Many of the exhibits highlight the local businesses that were at one time the mainstay of this community. The sheer number of artifacts on display from days gone by is simply amazing. They represent the type of retail establishments that fueled the local economy and provided goods, services, and entertainment to residents.
A few of the more interesting permanent displays are the Mckay Shoe Repair, the Zane Rankin Grocery Store, and the Thomas Meighan Theater. Nothing outlandish or fancy, just the kind of mom-and-pop businesses that were the heart and soul of practically every community in the early to mid-20th century.
As you explore your way around the museum you will eventually come to the library. For the most part, the collection is of books, newspaper articles, photos, and maps of the local area used by historians for their research. There is a collection of local school yearbooks dating back to the 1940s, so if you happen to have attended school in the area you may be able to find that long lost yearbook photo.
The library also contains a small selection of novels and biographies for those looking for a little entertainment reading.
Hollywood of the East
Unbeknownst to me was that this area of Florida was at one time known as the "Hollywood of the East" and the museum has an area dedicated to this. A number of celebrities visited New Port Richey and enjoyed the region’s warm winter weather and access to beautiful beaches.
Probably the area’s most famous part-time resident was country singer Johnny Cash, who visited the area often. June Carter’s parents lived in Port Richey on the Cotee River and the home was passed on to Johnny and June following their deaths. Johnny Cash enjoyed the laid-back and friendly atmosphere of the community and could often be seen fishing off of his dock or out on the gulf.
With a long history of Native American life in this part of Florida, there is also a section of the museum dedicated to the Indigenous People who inhabited the area. There are artifacts on display from the Timucuan and Seminole people, and their history dates back over 1500 years. The display shown in the photo below contains a wonderful collection of arrowheads discovered in the local area.
I think you’ll enjoy the vast collection of artifacts the museum has on display; it really opens your eyes and mind to what life was like here on Florida’s west coast and how it has progressed over the decades to where it is today. The museum is more like an antique collection, so if you enjoy antiquing you will certainly enjoy your visit.
Before leaving the museum, be sure to chat with the curator, who can share a wealth of information on the museum and the local area. There is also a small gift shop that has some very unique and unusual items made by local crafters and jewelers.
Museum Visitor Information
The West Pasco Historical Society Museum and Library is located at 6431 Circle Boulevard in New Port Richey. Their phone number is 727-847-0680.
- Hours: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm.*
- Special times for school tours and other groups can be arranged.
- Normal Entry Fee: $3
*Currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Membership to the Museum is available:
- Individual: $30
- Family: $50
- Business: $100
- Under 18: $5
Other Things to Do in Sims Park
The museum is located in Sims Park, and there are a few other interesting things to do while you are here visiting. Just to the west of the museum is the Cote River, where there is a very scenic river walk that we have done many times. If you are interested in getting out onto the water, there is a kayak/canoe launch here, and it is common to see kayakers cruising the river. We have been out on the Cote River a couple of times, and it makes for a relaxing and scenic journey.
Sims Park also contains a splash pad park for kids, a playground, picnic tables, and a concert bandshell for live entertainment. One of my favorite things about the park is the beautiful path that circles Orange Lake located directly in front of the museum. The path provides a safe and scenic route for walkers in a beautiful setting, and we have used this on numerous occasions.
Two newly constructed boardwalks extend out over the water, which is great for viewing the many local birds that frequent the lake. The green areas around the lake are often used for local art displays, and it’s just a very relaxing and peaceful area for a walk or run.
I hope you enjoy your visit to the West Pasco County Historical Society Museum and learn something new about the local area. While there, be sure to take in the many outdoor activities offered in beautiful Sims Park.
© 2020 Bill De Giulio