NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — The halls of the historic Hacienda Hotel were once filled with the loud, unmistakable laughter of Disney's Mad Hatter.
Norma Desmond, the character from Hollywood classic "Sunset Boulevard," could be seen waving to fans from her room.
The Hatter was voiced by comedian Ed Wynn.
Gloria Swanson was Oscar-nominated for her 1950 turn as the fame-craving Desmond.
Both celebrities were starpower guests at the Hacienda, an eye-popping pink palace built in 1927.
Built in a Mediterranean Revival style, the New Port Richey hotel was a glowing getaway for the rich and famous.
"This place was built as a hotel," says Jim Gunderson, the man responsible for returning the Hacienda back to its former glory. "It was designed as a hotel. It wants to be a hotel."
Later this year, maybe as early as summer, the Hacienda will open as a gorgeous 40-room hotel complete with dining room, bar and romantic courtyard perfect for weddings.
Gunderson is certainly the man for the job. The hotelier revived Mount Dora's Lakeside Inn, the oldest continuously operated hotel in the state of Florida (1883).
The Hacienda has other friends in the right places. Including the Friends of the Hacienda & Historic New Port Richey, a nonprofit group led by Bob Langford and Gary Gann.
"This might be the most important building in New Port Richey," says Langford, who fought hard to keep the Hacienda alive and relevant even when it fell into dereliction. "We just love it here."
Golfing legend Gene Sarazen was a fan of the Hacienda. If legend holds, so was ultimately songwriter Irving Berlin.
When the legends roamed the Hacienda, it was one of the loveliest places in all of Florida.
"Our goal is to bring all that back," says Gunderson.