Throughout its history, Hershey has been a well-known destination for entertainment.
After the Hershey Chocolate Factory opened in 1905, the town soon emerged as a popular regional destination. Visitors came to explore the model town and enjoy Hershey Park and its growing number of amenities.
In 1914, Hershey’s weekly newspaper, The Hershey Press, announced that a convention hall was going to be erected in Hershey Park. In developing plans for the hall, Milton Hershey was inspired by a well-known assembly hall in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, and sent his builder, James K. Putt, to visit the structure to learn more about it and what might be incorporated in the Hershey building.
The new facility was built specifically to attract large events and big crowds to Hershey. Its first function was the Triennial Convention of the Brethren Church. Milton Hershey was very interested in hosting this major event and promised the meeting planners that the Convention Hall would be completed in time for their conference scheduled for June 1915. Construction began in March 1915.
The building was dedicated on Memorial Day weekend, May 30, 1915. Hershey Park opened for the season the following day, Memorial Day (Monday, May 31). The dedication program included a 40 piece band, the combined church choirs of Hershey, several vocal and instrumental soloists, as well as several speakers.
The Convention Hall was not simply a large assembly hall. Milton Hershey’s plans for the building incorporated many of his goals and vision for his community. The Hershey Press carried this announcement about the building’s dedication in its June 3, 1915 issue:
Hershey Convention Hall is dedicated to the service of the people. May they meet often within its walls and by their proceedings and discussions find wisdom. May they listen to words that will guide them in the paths of peace and righteousness. May they hear music that will uplift them. May they gather the products of their fields and factories and stimulate one another to higher achievements in agriculture, manufacture, commerce and the arts. May they learn more of the great principles of consolidation and co-operation. May they be imbued with the spirit of brotherhood, of courtesy and of helpfulness. May the services on Memorial Day exalting the patriotism of our heroes be a true dedication of this Hall to the welfare of a free people, the cause of liberty, the love of the Flag and the glory of God.
True to Milton Hershey’s vision, the 1915 addition of the Convention Hall transformed Hershey, Pennsylvania into a destination capable of hosting large conventions and national performers. The Convention Hall quickly became a popular destination for both nationally celebrated performers and as a meeting venue for large organizations. The building would host a variety of events over its years of service including concerts by New York Metropolitan Opera singers, the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, the Sistine Chapel Choir during its first American tour, and nationally recognized marching bands.