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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.

Hershey’s Community Gardens

Springtime in the Hershey Gardens.  ca.1979-1990

Springtime in the Hershey Gardens. ca.1979-1990

 

Evidence to the contrary, Spring is just around the corner.  As soon as the ground thaws, gardeners will be out, clearing away winter’s debris, preparing the garden beds and planting the first crops of the season: cabbage, beets. snow peas, kale and broccoli, to name a few.

 

Home gardens are a great way to grow fresh vegetables.  There is nothing better than a ripe tomato, just picked.  But what about people who don’t have a backyard or enough sunshine in their yards to grow vegetables? This spring, Hershey will launch its Community Garden, a partnership of Hershey’s corporate entities and the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.  Its purpose to to provide gardening space to employees and residents.

 

Hershey has a long tradition of helping residents without backyards to grow some of their own food.

 

During World War I, the United States government promoted community gardens to supplement and expand the domestic food supply. In 1917 Hershey responded by setting aside six acres of ground in East Hershey [east of Homestead Road, probably bounded on the south by Areba Avenue] for a community farm.  Rohrer Snavely was placed in charge.  In the March 22, 1917 issue of the Hershey Press, an article said the project planned to hire boys who wanted to learn garden farming while being paid.

 

Homestead Road is just to the left of Java Avenue, seen here just left of the houses.  ca.1910-1913

Homestead Road is just to the left of Java Avenue, seen here just left of the houses. ca.1910-1913

 

The program expanded to include gardens for girls the following month.

 

In 1918, Hershey, along with much of the nation, encouraged citizens to plant “War Gardens” to help with the war effort.  Hershey’s efforts in promoting public vegetable gardens ended with the conclusion of World War I.

 

It was not until the United States’ entry into World War II that Hershey again began to sponsor  community garden plots as part of the homefront’s efforts to support the war effort.

 

Want to know more?  Check out the Archives website’s latest essay addition about the history of community gardens in Hershey.