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Archive for the ‘Lodging’ Category

New exhibit: Hershey in 1963

Did you know that the Archives has a space for small exhibits in the lobby of The Hershey Story?  Located right next to the entrance to the Zooka Cafe, the exhibit case provides the Archives the opportunity to highlight its collections and use them to tell some of Hershey’s amazing stories. 

 

This morning I installed the latest exhibit about Hershey in 1963.  While people probably didn’t realize it at the time, 1963 was a pivotal year for Hershey.  Just consider this.  During 1963:

 

  • Hershey Chocolate Corporation acquired the H.B. Reese Candy Company
  • Hershey Trust Company, Trustee for Milton Hershey School Trust Fund, received permission to donate $50 million to Penn State University for the purpose of establishing/building a medical college and teaching hospital.
  • Hershey Estates opened Highmeadow Campground.
  • Cocoa Avenue Plaza, a new recreational center that featured a swimming pool with a retractable roof, was given to the community by Hershey Chocolate Corporation.
  • New streetlights in the shaped of wrapped and unwrapped Kisses chocolates were installed along Chocolate Avenue.

 

All these events foretold significant future changes in Hershey: both  for the businesses and the community.

If you live in the area, come check out the new exhibit.  It’s free!

Becoming a destination: Building the Hershey Convention Center

Hershey Estates president Jim Bobb and Hershey Trust Company president Arthur Whiteman cut the ribbon formally opening the Hershey Convention Center.  March 25, 1974

Hershey Estates president Jim Bobb and Hershey Trust Company president Arthur Whiteman cut the ribbon formally opening the Hershey Convention Center. March 25, 1974

 

How did a major Convention Center end up being built in Hershey, Pennsylvania?  While it makes sense today, in the early 1970s, Hershey was a not a national destination.  Hersheypark had just begun its transformation into a themed amusement park, the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center had just opened in 1970 and the Hotel Hershey was perceived as a quaint, but worn out hotel.

 

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Building a Convention Center grew out of the initial success of the Hershey Motor Lodge which opened in 1967 and featured 200 guest rooms, the Hearth Room Restaurant, two meeting rooms and a free-form swimming pool. The motor lodge’s primary market was thought to be families and so the original plans did not include a venue for alcohol sales. It wasn’t until shortly after opening that the decision was made to permit the sale of alcohol in the Motor Lodge.  Renovations were made quickly and the Forebay cocktail lounge was added.

 

Entrance to Hershey Convention Center, ca.1974

Entrance to Hershey Convention Center, ca.1974

 

Extensive market studies were completed before Hershey Estates decided to add the Convention Center in 1974. Studies revealed that there were no large meeting facilities available in central Pennsylvania. When it was built the Convention Center was the largest meeting space between Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Baltimore. 

 

Jim Bobb and Arthur Whiteman prepare to cut the ribbon to formally open the Hershey Convention Center. March 25, 1974

Jim Bobb and Arthur Whiteman prepare to cut the ribbon to formally open the Hershey Convention Center. March 25, 1974

 

Hershey Convention Center grand opening, March 25, 1974

Hershey Convention Center grand opening, March 25, 1974

 

Grand opening was held March 25, 1974.  Oversized household items (phones, beer bottles, etc.) and large scale construction vehicles (cement truck) decorated the Convention Hall to emphasize the large space.

 

The Convention Hall transformed the Motor Lodge and helped Hershey’s transition to a major destination.  The space was very versatile, offering meeting and convention space for from a banquet for 1500 to a boardroom meeting for 24.  The upper and lower levels of the Convention Hall offered over 30,000 square feet of usable space plus a 4500 square foot upper lobby and a 325 seat mini theatre.

Serving Our Country: Hotel Hershey During World War II

 While many  are familiar with Hershey Chocolate Corporation’s contributions to the war effort manufacturing millions of Ration ‘D’ survival ration bars, Hershey also played an important, though little known, service to our country during the war. During the war years, Hotel Hershey served as an internment camp for the Vichy French diplomatic corps stationed in the United States.  

 

Germany invaded and defeated France in the spring of 1940.  A large portion of southwestern France was left unoccupied by the conquering army.  A new French government,  sympathetic to the Nazi regime, was established in the town of Vichy. As part of political protocol, the Vichy government sent Gaston Henri Haye to Washington, D.C. to serve as the French ambassador to the United States.

 

News of the Vichy French ambassador and his staff's arrest appeared in newspapers across the country. Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, 11/?/1942

News of the Vichy French ambassador and his staff's arrest appeared in newspapers across the country. Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, 11/?/1942

By late 1942, the United States had lost patience with the pro Hitler French government.  In September 1942 the State Department discovered that the French Embassy in Washington D.C. had sent a letter to the Vichy Government concerning United States war production.  On November 7 the United States launched its invasion of French North Africa, “Operation Torch.”  On November 11, the Germans, fearing they would be outflanked in the south and not trusting Vichy, occupied the remaining portion of France.  The United States still had relations with Vichy, and now American diplomatic personnel were behind German enemy lines.  The American diplomats were moved an internment camp at Lourdes.

 

Hotel Hershey and grounds.  ca.1935-1940

Hotel Hershey and grounds. ca.1935-1940

 

The State Department responded by deciding the Henry Haye and his staff would soon leave the French embassy in Washington.  They began looking for a place to put them.  Newspapers across the country published stories of the arrest of the pro-Nazi ambassador and his staff.  Page 17 of the November 14, 1942 New York Times featured a large aerial photograph of the Hotel Hershey.  “Where French Diplomats Will Be Housed” read the caption.
 

The NYTimes article continued, “Negotiations are under way here between the Federal Government and the Hershey Estates over the housing of 300 representatives of the Vichy government  at the hotel Hershey.  Discussions have been going on since Wednesday, but no arrangements had been completed,” the paper noted.  The State Department planned to place the Vichy Government staff in custody until arrangements could be made for their repatriation and subsequent exchange for the American diplomats being detained by France.

 

 

Joseph Gassler, General Manager of the Hotel Hershey, 1933-1959

Joseph Gassler, General Manager of the Hotel Hershey, 1933-1959

 

 

While the New York Times believed that arrangements were still being made, in reality, Joseph Gassler, General Manager for the Hotel, had already sent a letter to Cordell Hull, Secretary of State on November 12, 1942, offering the Hotel’s services.

I have the honor to advise you that Hotel Hershey has placed its facilities at your service…I shall be very happy to have these people as our guests and assure you, my dear Secretary, that we will do our utmost, in every respect, to give the high standard of service which the famous Hotel Hershey knows how to give.

Mr. Gassler’s letter also included details about the specific conditions of the arrangements.  Tariff for adults was set at $7.50/day per person, children (0-12 years old) $4.00 per person, and guards, $4.00 per person.  Incidental expenses incurred were to be billed to the State Department at cost, and gratuities were also to be paid by State Department funding.

 

The Hotel was chosen to sequester the Vichy French government representatives for several reasons.  Hershey Estates was cooperative, the quality of accommodations was quite high and the possibly most importantly, the Hotel was in a secluded and defensible location.

 

Want to learn more?  Visit the Archives website to learn more about Hershey’s contributions to the United States war effort.

All the comforts of home: Hershey Motor Lodge

The Lodge opened in 1967, offering guest curbside access to their guest rooms.  ca.1967-1969

The Lodge opened in 1967, offering guest curbside access to their guest rooms. ca.1967-1969

During the 1950s and 1960s Hershey was a sought after place for recreation, entertainment and business.  The influx of tourists created parking and traffic problems.  Hershey Estates, the owner of all of Hershey’s attractions and lodging venues, struggled to met the growing demands of visitors to the town.  While Milton Hershey had been alive, he had provided the necessary funds to keep Hershey an attractive destination without concern for profits.  After his death, profitability became more important and without adequate funding, facilities often appeared worn and tired.

Hershey’s  Cocoa Inn had many faults:  inadequate wiring, plumbing and room layout.  The downtown site was plagued by severe sinkholes.  Limited parking made the facility unattractive to the modern tourist family.  In response to the growing automobile based tourist business Hershey Estates began planning for a large 200 room motel on the west end of town.  The future Hershey Motor Lodge was a visible symbol of Hershey Estates’ new focus on entertainment and resorts.

Aerial view of new Hershey Motor Lodge, ca.1967

Aerial view of new Hershey Motor Lodge, ca.1967

Construction for the Motor Lodge was hampered by sinkholes, a well-known obstacle in Hershey.  The location for the Lodge’s entrance was changed three times because of them. Opening May 1, 1967, the Hershey Motor Lodge featured 200 guest rooms, the Hearth Room Restaurant, two meeting rooms capable of holding 400 people, and a free-form outdoor swimming pool.

Not part of the original plans, the Forebay Cocktail Lounge was added in 1968

Not part of the original plans, the Forebay Cocktail Lounge was added in 1968

Interestingly, since the primary market was seen as families, plans for the Motor Lodge called for the facility to be totally alcohol free.  It wasn’t until shortly after opening that Hershey reconsidered that decision and the brand new facility was renovated to add a cocktail lounge (The Forebay).

The lake that marks the main entrance to the Motor Lodge was also another addition to the original design.  The lake was added at the request of James Bobb, then Hershey Estates’ president.  The architect, contractor and consulting engineer all argued against the idea, citing the extensive and complex system of sinkholes.  To create the pond, individual sinkholes were filled with crushed stone and sometimes sealed with concrete, and then the entire bed of the lake was sealed with “Bentonite,” a special mixture of clay which bonds and holds water.  Anytime it rained, the pond would fill.  When needed, the pond could also be refilled from a nearby farm’s water source.

To learn more about the growth and development of the Hershey Lodge, visit the chronology database available on the Archives’ website and search on ‘Hershey Lodge.’

Highmeadow Campground: Responding to trends in leisure travel

Car camping became  popular during the years following World War II.  Campgrounds across the United States began to offer sites with a place to park your car, along with easy access to water and rest facilities.  Following this trend,  Hershey made plans in 1962 to open a community camping and picnic facility in the north-west side of Hershey, out by the Hershey Orchard, where the Swatara Creek passed by the railroad.

Aerial view, Highmeadow Campground.  1974

Aerial view, Highmeadow Campground. 1974

The future camping site had been farmed for years by various owners and tenant farmers.  The stone bank barn (that today serves as the camp’s office and store) was built in 1843.

Highmeadow bank barn, 2010

Highmeadow bank barn, 2010

During the 20th century, the land was leased to tenant farmers who farmed the land and had the use of the farm and farmhouse.  In 1942 the land was sold to the Hershey Trust Company who continued to hire farmers to farm the land and who lived in the farmhouse.

Even though most of the land was used for farming, the area along the Swatara Creek was a popular picnic and camping site.  Groups such as local Democratic and Republican parties held picnics each year.  Various boy scout troops camped there each summer.

In October 1962 Hershey Estates began work to transform the area into a campground.  A new gravel road was constructed to permit easier access and different areas were designated for tent camping and picniking.

Highmeadow Campground grand opening.  l-r: James Bobb, Arthur Whiteman, Lloyd Blinco, Wallace Mayer.  5/16/1963

Highmeadow Campground grand opening. l-r: James Bobb, Arthur Whiteman, Lloyd Blinco, Wallace Mayer. 5/16/1963

While Highmeadow Camp was initially developed for local residents and organizations, demand for such a facility quickly led to it being made available to tourists as well as residents.  In its first year of operation Highmeadow Campground covered 10 acres and offered 50 sites with complete camping facilities, including tables, fireplaces and a modern bathhouse.

Camping along Swatara Creek, 1963

Camping along Swatara Creek, 1963

Highmeadow Campground’s immediate success led to its expansion the following year.  Over the years the campground expanded and a variety of amentities were added, including a swimming pool, self-service laundry, campground programs and activities, facilities for motor homes, and full-service cabins.