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Welcoming Spring in Hershey: Easter Flower Shows

 
Hershey's first conservatory, ca. 1910
Hershey’s first conservatory, ca. 1910
Greenhouse at High Point Mansion, ca. 1909-1918
Greenhouse at High Point Mansion, ca. 1909-1918

 

 

One of the highlights of Hershey’s Easter season were the flower displays presented each spring in conjunction with Easter. First presented in Milton Hershey’s private greenhouse in 1909, the displays grew more elaborate each year and expanded as new conservatories were built.

The conservatories were open year round and were a popular destination in the winter months. The Hershey Press provided detailed reports of the flora displayed in the greenhouses. During the colder months the greenhouses were filled with the many palms, rubber trees, ferns and that were placed throughout Hershey during the warm months. In addition the greenhouses were used to propagate bedding plants such as coleus, geraniums, and begonias that would be planted throughout the community in its many flower beds.

The Easter displays quickly became an annual tradition in Hershey. The event, initially held on Easter afternoon and later expanding the the entire week before Easter, drew thousands of people to see elaborate displays of blooming Spring blooms and other flowers.

The fifth annual Easter Flower Show was held in 1913, the town’s 10th anniversary. Both conservatories were opened for visitors on Easter Day from noon to 6 p.m. The flower variety was impressive, including Chinese baby primroses, California poppies, red aftrican daisies, lilies and cyclamens as well as hundreds of tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils. In addition the the elaborate floral exhibits, guests were treated to the fun of seeing tropical birds, fish and even the zoo’s alligators who were housed in one of the conservatories.

 

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Hershey Zoo conservatory (now part of ZooAmerica Desert animal exhibit), ca. 1916

The show was enlarged in 1914 with the addition of a new conservatory located in the Hershey Zoo. The lower level of this conservatory served as winter quarters for several zoo animals.

In 1917 the show was further expanded when the old laundry (future Zoo entrance building) was repurposed as a Horticultural Hall.

 

Hershey Greenhouse, ca1931-1940

Hershey Greenhouse, ca.1931-1940

 

The show was discontinued in 1918 and it was not reestablished for several years. In 1930 Hershey constructed a new expansive greenhouse. With the new structure, Hershey was inspired to reestablish the Easter Show tradition. It is uncertain when it was restarted. The first reference to the revived Easter Flower show appears in a 1935 issue of the Hotel Hershey Highlights. The article also mentioned the success of the 1934 show. The Flower Shows continued throughout the 1930s. The last show was held in 1942 and was discontinued the following year because of wartime restrictions.

 

Easter Flower Show, Hershey Greenhouse, ca.1931-1942

Easter Flower Show, Hershey Greenhouse, ca.1931-1942

 

Heart of the Community: Hershey’s Community Building

  

 

Hershey Community Building, 1933
Hershey Community Building, 1933

 

Originally planned for 1916 and finally constructed during Hershey’s Great Building Campaign of the 1930s, the goal of the building was to provide entertainment and recreation, as well as to fulfill educational and civic functions for the entire town. World War I and subsequent financial challenges for Hershey Chocolate Company delayed its construction.  Finally in November 1928 ground was broken.  The building was completed in September 1932 and officially dedicated in September 1933 as part of the Town’s 30th anniversary celebration.
 

The primary function of the Building’s recreational facilities was for the use of the Hershey Men’s Club.  The Men’s Club offered an extensive range of programs and activities for the boys and men of Hershey.  The facilities were very impressive.

Game Room: 180 feet long, contains four bowling alleys, a court for practicing driving golf ball or putting, three shuffleboard tables, four ping pong tables, five pocket billiard tables for men, one billiard table for boys, a table for curoque, and a section devoted to games for boys in addition to tables for cards, checkers, chess, etc.

Game Room, Community Building; ca. 1932-1942

Game Room, ca.1932-1942

On same floor is a swimming pool 75 feet long by 25 feet wide, 3 – 9 1/2  feet deep,  with three spring boards.  Separate showers for men and boys
 
Community Building Swimming Pool, ca. 1950-1960 
 
 
Gymnasium:  (80 x 44 feet with 35 foot ceiling) for class work, volley ball, basketball, softball, badminton and special exercising rooms as well as two courts for four-wall hand ball, also can be used as squash courts.
 
 
Men's Club Junior Division, Community Building Gymnasium, ca.1935

Men's Club Junior Division, Community Building Gymnasium, ca.1935

The Archives oral history collections contain many memories of the Community Building and how important it was to the residents, particularly the children.  Many men shared memories of their childhoods spending afternoons and evenings at the Community Building:
 

Frank Simione (93OH02):

In the early years, from starting at my eighth birthday, we belonged to the Hershey Community Building, which at that time was called Community Club for us, where they had the Hershey hospital on the sixth floor, later became the Hershey Junior College. At eight years old, we belonged to this Community Building, where we learned all the athletic sports, all types of games. I think it was three dollars for six months, and you started as a cadet and went up to a junior, and then you went into intermediate, then you went into a senior program.

Spending all that time and all those years there, I learned many athletic games and as much as all the small games that you would play, like checkers and dominos and pool and ping-pong and bowling. We were fortunate to have this facility. At the time, we didn’t know any better, but as we grew, and later on in life, we found that that was a beautiful place for kids to go.

To learn more about the Archives’ oral history collections use this link to visit the Archives online collections database.