Woman’s Civic Club of New Port Richey

Page created by WPHS digital archivist Paul Herman … last updated on 13 Dec 2023.

In late 1915, an organization called the “Cotee River Community Club” was organized in New Port Richey for the purpose of “promoting social enjoyment”. After several preliminary meetings, the officers of the club were reported in January, 1916, as being; J.H. Moran (president) J.G. Holzscheiter (vice president), H.A. Josselyn (secretary) and S.B. Davis (treasurer). George Sims’ Port Richey Company donated land in Enchantment Park to construct a clubhouse for the organization. It was completed early in 1916. The new clubhouse quickly became the social gathering place for the community as a whole – with weekly dances, church services, town meetings, and many other events.

While the Cotee River Community Club was founded solely for the purpose of providing social entertainment for residents and visitors, the Woman’s Civic Club was the first service organization in New Port Richey. The men were busy clearing land, farming, and doing construction work in these hard pioneer times. But there was no place for ladies to meet and socialize. So a group of eight women met on August 9, 1916, at the home of Emma Rowan to form a club. The original name they chose for their club was “The Home Improvement Community Club of New Port Richey”. In September of that same year, the name was changed to the “Woman’s Civic Club”.

Emma Rowan

Emma Rowan was elected president of the club, and remained in that position until shortly before she died in 1952. She was also an organizer of the Order of the Eastern Star, and was its first Matron.

Shortly after the Woman’s Civic Club was formed, they began holding meetings in the Cotee River Community clubhouse in Enchantment Park. Meetings were held every Wednesday at 3:00 pm. It is unclear what became of the original “Community Club of New Port Richey”. But is seems as though the men of the community lost interest in the cause and decided to cede control over to the new Woman’s Civic Club.

Among the first projects of the Civic Club was to clean up the Park. But before long, the Woman’s Civic Club took on ever more challenging projects. They are credited with spearheading the movement to find a good piece of property for New Port Richey’s first cemetery at Pine Hill, and were instrumental in creating the Pine Hill Community Cemetery Association in November of 1917. Click HERE to see the Articles of Incorporation. That property was located north of town, and was donated by George Sims.

Members of the Woman’s Civic Club also took it upon themselves to be advocates for public education. Club founder Emma Rowan and her education committee made the arduous trip to the county seat at Dade City to plead for a new and adequate school for students in and around New Port Richey. Their request was granted, and the result was construction of Pierce Elementary School. That school, founded in 1926, is now home to the New Port Richey library located at the intersection of Main and Madison Streets.

In August of 1920, early New Port Richey developer Warren Burns asked the Woman’s Civic Club for help in building public support for installing an electric plant. The Club went on to assume responsibility of administering the electric utility, which began with eight street lamps. They payed the bills, replaced burned out or broken bulbs, and handled any complaints. When New Port Richey was incorporated in 1924, the Club turned over the electric light business to the city.

The Woman’s Civic Club continued to be active in the community for many years. It was considered such an important and integral part of New Port Richey that it eventually began to be referred to as simply the “Civic Club”. Regular projects of the club included annual Easter egg hunts, Memorial day services, bazaars, public suppers, decoration of a town Christmas tree, and many other social events.

Finally, in the 1970s, the Club membership had dwindled to just a few members, and they voted to disband the organization and give the Civic Club building to the City of New Port Richey. The city council accepted it, but found that it was in terrible condition and would cost too much to repair. Their final decision was to allow the fire department to use the building in a controlled burn as a training exercise. The clubhouse that had served the City of New Port Richey for over fifty years was burned to the ground.

Following is a chronological listing of many of the early activities of the Woman’s Civic Club of New Port Richey …

9 Aug 1916 – Emma Rowan (1860 – 1952) and seven other ladies create the “Home Improvement Community Club of New Port Richey”.

20 Sep 1916 – The name of the club was changed to the “Woman’s Civic Club”.

27 Sep 1916 – The club created a School Committee to to pursue improvements in the local schools.

10 Jan 1917 – The Cemetery Committee approved a 2-1/2 acre plot of land, which had been set aside for school property north of the city, as a possible site for a cemetery. The club now had 29 members.

21 Mar 1917 – The club votes to form a cemetery association.

5 Nov 1917 – Articles of Incorporation for the Pine Hill Community Cemetery Association are submitted. Officers of the association were Nettie Sheldon, Lonnie Clark, Jennine Leagh, Emma Rowan, Minnie Broesma and Alice Davis.

10 Aug 1920 – Warren Burns asks the Woman’s Civic Club for help in installing an electric plant in New Port Richey.

30 Aug 1920 – Members of the Woman’s Civic Club and the Board of Trade meet with Mr. C.F. Burns to make arrangements for installing street lights in downtown New Port Richey. Eight 100 watt lamps were to be installed at the following locations; Boulevard at Delaware Avenue, by the schoolhouse on Main Street, Central Avenue and Circle Drive, near the Methodist church, Jefferson Street and Indiana Avenue, by the Scott house on Circle Drive, on the bridge in Enchantment Park and one near Mr. Holland’s bungalow. Additional privately funded lamps were to be installed by Mr. Hermanson outside his drugstore, by George Sims outside the bank, by Mr. Burns on Main Street, and by Mr. Snell at the entrance to the Snell Building. The club begins holding regular “Civic Club Dinners” to fund the street light effort.

30 Dec 1920 – The New Port Richey Press announced that the “Civic Club” would in the future hold their meetings at Snell Hall on Main Street. It is unclear what prompted them to stop holding meetings at the clubhouse in Enchantment Park.

16 Mar 1922 – The Woman’s Civic Club reports a membership of 100 ladies.

27 Apr 1922 – The club begins having meetings twice a month instead of every Wednesday. Street light service financed by the Woman’s Civic Club is extended to a subdivision west of the Cotee River.

9 Apr 1924 – George Sims donates the clubhouse in Enchantment Park to the Woman’s Civic Club to use for meetings and other purposes as long as the organization exists.

May 1924 – The club once again begins holding their meetings in the clubhouse in Enchantment Park.

28 Oct 1924 – The club turns over control of the electric light business to the City of New Port Richey.

15 May 1926 – The Pine Hill Community Cemetery Association, founded by the Woman’s Civic Club, deeded Pine Hill Cemetery to the City of New Port Richey.