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Cultivated for Pleasure: History of Hershey Conservatories

 

Entrace to Hershey Park, ca1920-1930

Entrace to Hershey Park, ca1920-1930

 

Landscaping and beautification of grounds and property was always a priority for Milton and Catherine Hershey. The community of Hershey was noted for its extensive garden beds, as well as the lush lawns and trees that were planted throughout Hershey. Catherine Hershey took particular responsibility for the gardens surrounding their home, High Point, personally supervising the placement and planting of the flower beds.

 

To protect the tropical plants that enhanced Hershey’s landscaping and offer residents and visitors a respite from the cold winter months, Milton Hershey directed that greenhouses or conservatories be built in the community.

 

Hershey conservatories were used year round.  In the winter, they housed the many tropical plants and trees that beautified Hershey Park during the warm weather months, as well as the zoo’s birds and reptiles that could not tolerate Pennsylvania’s cold winter months. Visitors enjoyed visiting the conservatories to see the plants and wildlife. The conservatories were also used to propagate seedlings and cuttings that were planted in Hershey’s extensive garden beds each spring.

 

HIGH POINT CONSERVATORY

 

High Point mansion conservatory, ca1909-1918

High Point mansion conservatory, ca1909-1918

 

Hershey’s first conservatory was built in 1909, as an accompaniment to Milton and Catherine’s home, High Point.  Visitors and residents were welcome to tour the conservatory as well as the grounds.  The conservatory was removed circa 1928, when the grounds were redeveloped as a golf course.

 

HERSHEY PARK CONSERVATORY (1910)

 

Hershey Park's first conservatory was built close to the park main entrance. ca1915

Hershey Park’s first conservatory was built close to the park main entrance. ca1915

 

 

The next conservatory was built soon after the first was completed. Opening in 1910, the first Hershey Park conservatory was located near what was then the main entrance to the Park in the vicinity of what is today ZooAmerica’s Southern Swamps exhibit.

 

 

During the winter months,  conservatories were used to propagate seedlings for the ourdoor flower beds. ca1910

During the winter months, conservatories were used to propagate seedlings for the ourdoor flower beds. ca1910

 

By 1915, the Zoo’s bear enclosure adjoined the building. The conservatory was removed around 1924 in anticipation of the Hershey Estates Greenhouse.

 

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HERSHEY PARK CONSERVATORY (1914)

 

In 1914, a second Hershey Park conservatory was built in the middle of the quickly expanding Zoo. Shortly after it opened a portion of the building was used by the Zoo for their primate enclosure.

 

Hershey Park conservatory was renovated as an enclosure for the zoo's birds in the 1930s. ca1934

Hershey Park conservatory was renovated as an enclosure for the zoo’s birds in the 1930s. 1934

 

The building is now home to ZooAmerica’s Great Southwest exhibit.

 

Hershey Estates Greenhouse, ca1935-1940

Hershey Estates Greenhouse, ca1935-1940

 

 

HERSHEY ESTATES GREENHOUSE (1930)

 

Hershey’s last public conservatory and greenhouse was built in 1930. The Hershey Estates Greenhouse was constructed on the north side of the railroad underpass on Mansion Road.

 

Hershey Estates Greenhouse, 1931

Hershey Estates Greenhouse, 1931

 

Removed in 1961, portions of the structure were reclaimed in 1998 and used in the construction of The Butterfly House at Hershey Gardens.

 

MILTON HERSHEY SCHOOL (Hershey Industrial School) GREENHOUSE (1919)

 

Hershey Industrial School (Milton Hershey School) boys spell out “H E R S H E Y” in front of the school greenhouse. 1923

 

Hershey Industrial School (now Milton Hershey School) also built a greenhouse for the use of its students in 1919. The greenhouse was located adjacent to the Homestead, Milton Hershey’s birthplace. Hershey Industrial School students used the greenhouse as part of the horticultural curriculum. Students cultivated plants for retail sale. In 1961, the greenhouse was relocated to the School’s farm Rosemont, where it remained in use until 1992.

Fore! Origins of the Hershey Country Club

In 1928, Milton Hershey authorized the construction of two new golf courses for Hershey.  The first course was located next to Hershey Park and was named the Hershey Parkview course.  Parkview was a public course, open to all golfers.  The second course was laid out on land surrounding Milton Hershey’s home, High Point.  This course incorporated the remaining holes of Hershey’s first  9-hole golf course that had been established in 1908.  Over the years, the chocolate factory’s continual expansion had consumed the original course bit by bit so that by the 1920s only 5 or 6 holes remained.

 

In April 1930 Milton Hershey invited one hundred guests to a luncheon held at the new Hershey Country Club.

In April 1930 Milton Hershey invited one hundred guests to a luncheon held at the new Hershey Country Club.

 

In April 1930, Milton Hershey sent an invitation to one hundred people in Hershey, inviting them to a luncheon to be held at his home, which was being remodeled to serve as a clubhouse for the new country club.  As part of the remodeling, Milton Hershey reserved the second floor of the house as his personal apartment.

 

Before lunch was served, Milton Hershey greeted his guests and invited them to look under their plates.  Underneath each plate was a charter membership card for each guest.

 

High Point Mansion served as the clubhouse for Hershey Country Club from 1930-1970.

High Point Mansion served as the clubhouse for Hershey Country Club from 1930-1970.

In 1970 a new clubhouse was built along East Derry Road.

In 1970 a new clubhouse was built along East Derry Road.

 

High Point served as the clubhouse for the Hershey Country Club until 1970 when the new East course  opened and new clubhouse was constructed along East Derry Road.

Restoring a legacy: Hershey Foods Corporation and High Point Mansion

Golfers putting at the new Hershey Country Club golf course's 18th hole.  Milton Hershey's home, High Point, served as the clubhouse.  1933

Golfers putting at the new Hershey Country Club golf course’s 18th hole. Milton Hershey’s home, High Point, served as the clubhouse. 1933

 

In 1930 Milton Hershey donated his home, High Point, to the newly organized Hershey Country Club to serve as its clubhouse.  The house continued to serve as the Country Club Clubhouse until 1970 when the Club moved to a new facility on Derry Road. 

 

High Point Mansion served as the Hershey Country Club clubhouse until 1970.

High Point Mansion served as the Hershey Country Club clubhouse until 1970.

 

High Point sat vacant until 1977 when it was acquired by Hershey Foods Corporation to serve as a corporate headquarters.  Bill Dearden, CEO of Hershey Foods Corporation, described his motivation for using Milton Hershey’s home as the company’s headquarters in his 1989 oral history interview:

 

The building called High Point, which was Mr. Hershey’s home, was almost sacred ground, as far as I was concerned.  It was his home.  Many of his major decisions in developing the business over the years were made right here by him.  They were talking about making it into a museum or they were going to make it into something else.  There was also the thought of tearing it down.  I just couldn’t believe in my own mind that we would even think that way. 

 

The house was in poor condition and the project presented some real challenges.  Hershey Foods needed to take a gracious, though run-down, home and make it functional for a corporate office while respecting the historical nature of the building.  

 

High Point's First Floor, prior to 1977 renovations

High Point’s First Floor, prior to 1977 renovations

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High Point 2nd floor plan, prior to 1977 renovations

 

 

The Archives’ collections include pre-renovation floor plans, photos and feasibility studies for transforming High Point for business use.  Several design options were considered, including ones that would use the attic space for corporate offices.

 

 With a $2 million budget, Hershey Foods Corporation made extensive renovations to the building to make it functional as an office building.  While many of the porches had to be removed due to the high cost of repair, the main part of the first floor was kept largely intact, preserving the architectural integrity of the house.

 

High Point staircase, after 1977 renovations by Hershey Foods Corporation

High Point staircase, after 1977 renovations by Hershey Foods Corporation

 

 The company used High Point for their executive offices until 1991 when they relocated to a new corporate headquarters located just north of Hershey.

Saving High Point

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Hershey Country Club (High Point Mansion), Mary Morrison teeing off; ca. 1935-1940

 

In 1930 Hershey Country Club was established and Milton Hershey offered his home, High Point, as its clubhouse, retaining two rooms on the second floor as an private apartment for himself.  The Club converted the first floor rooms into dining rooms and built a free standing one-story structure as a men’s locker room.  By the late 1960s, Hershey Country Club wanted to expand and made plans to build a second golf course and a new clubhouse. 

From 1970 to 1976, the mansion sat empty with only a caretaker living in an upstairs apartment.  Rumors circulated that the aging mansion would be demolished and many in town viewed it as a white elephant.

Fortunately, William Dearden, a Milton Hershey School graduate, was made CEO of Hershey Foods Corporation in 1976.  He had a strong vision for the company’s future.  To accomplish his goals, he created a new corporate staff and needed to find space for his executive team to work effectively apart from the day to day operations of the chocolate business. 

To accomplish his goals he acquired High Point  in 1977 with the goal of renovating it to serve as the company’s new corporate headquarters. 

To make the house functional as a business office, extensive renovations were required.  While the first floor was kept largely intact, on the second floor walls were moved and also added to create office space.  Hershey Foods made an effort to maintain architectural elements, duplicating trimwork and door styles.  At times functionality won out such as when ceilings were lowered (covering up plaster trim and part of elaborate crown moldings) to allow the installation of modern HVAC systems.  Hershey Foods also altered the look of the turn of the century mansion by installing wall to wall carpeting (hiding the inlaid hard-wood floors) and grass cloth as wall paper (all the rage in 1970s America).

Practicality also led to the elimination of some of the house’s elaborate porches and sun room.  Extensive wood rot and over-budget costs to repair/replace resulted in the decision to remove these parts of the house during its renovation.

Dearden’s need to relocate his executive corporate team and his passion for protecting Milton Hershey’s legacy saved High Point from possible destruction during an era in which many American cities defined urban renewal by destroying many architectural gems.

Hershey Foods Corporation Corporate Headquarters, Board Room; ca. 1980

Hershey Foods Corporation Corporate Headquarters, Board Room; ca. 1980

 

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Hershey Foods Corporation Corporate Headquarters, Reception Room; ca.1980