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Archive for June, 2010

Hershey Convention Hall

Hershey Convention Hall, exterior.  1915

Hershey Convention Hall, exterior. 1915

When the Church of the Brethren chose Hershey as the location for its next annual meeting, the church requested permission to erect a tent on park grounds. Milton Hershey responded with an offer to build a 6,000 seat convention hall for their use. The Convention Hall was completed in less than a year, just in time for the Brethren’s June 1915 meeting. Over 60,000 people from all over the United States attended the convention that year.

Hershey Convention Hall, Church of the Brethren Triennial Convention, 6/1915

Hershey Convention Hall, Church of the Brethren Triennial Convention, 6/1915

The Hershey Convention Hall was originally conceived as a Chautauqua Hall, which would offer a wide array of educational and cultural opportunities.  The size and location of the Convention Hall led to its use not only as a meeting place but also as a performance hall.  Between 1915 and 1930 it hosted nationally recognized performers, including Paul Whiteman and his orchestra, the Sistine Chapel Choir, soprano Marion Talley and Will Rogers. In 1925 the Convention Hall was remodeled, and its acoustics were improved. That year John Philip Sousa and his band performed at the Convention Hall over the Fourth of July weekend celebration. Tickets for his afternoon and evening concerts were 75 cents. There was standing room only for the concerts, and many more people crowded around the building listening to the music.

In 1931 the Convention Hall was remodeled as an Ice Palace for ice skating and hockey. ca. 1931-1936

In 1931 the Convention Hall was remodeled as an Ice Palace for ice skating and hockey. ca. 1931-1936

In 1931 the Convention Hall was again remodeled and a ice rink added to the facility. Each winter the rink was used for public skating, an annual ice carnival and ice hockey games. Hershey’s instant love affair with ice skating and hockey would lead to the construction of the Hershey Sports Arena in 1936.

Protecting the town: Hershey Volunteer Fire Company

The need for a variety of town services became apparent shortly after the Hershey Chocolate factory began operating in the summer of 1905. Hershey Volunteer Fire Company, our community’s oldest service organization, was first organized in August 1905 with Frank Snavely serving as the first president and Charles V. Glynn as the first fire chief. The volunteers soon began responding to calls. The first call came in December 1905 to a fire at John Moyer’s Derry Church residence. The organization was officially chartered in 1907. At that time there were 73 members, including Milton Hershey. Throughout his life he was an advocate for the Fire Company and personally supported the organization with financial donations and by purchasing fire trucks and equipment.

Hershey Volunteer Fire Company, first fire hall.  ca. 1906-1910

Hershey Volunteer Fire Company, first fire hall. ca. 1906-1910

The first fire house was located on Chocolate Avenue, just west of the Chocolate factory. At first the organization was as much a social club as a service organization. As the town grew and new organizations started, the Fire Company focused more of its energy on providing the best possible service to the community. As the town grew and technology improved, the Fire Company needed to upgrade its fire fighting equipment. A new Packard pumper was purchased in 1921 and in 1926 a Selden Buffalo pumper was acquired. With the addition of this new equipment, the fire hall was too small for the Fire Company needs .


New Fire Hall on West Caracas Avenue, men posing with Selden and Packard pumpers. 1928

In 1927 Milton Hershey responded to the need for the new fire house by donating a piece of land on W. Caracas Avenue, just off Cocoa Avenue as well as $5000 towards construction costs. Work on the $15,000 building began on January 10, 1928. It was completed in June that same year. Formal dedication ceremonies for the station were held on June 23, 1928. The festivities began with a parade followed by the dedication ceremony. A evening dance and carnival concluded the day long celebration. Today this building is the center part of the current fire station.

Bigger and faster: Hershey Park’s Comet Roller Coaster

Comet Roller Coaster ride entrance, ca.1946-1960

Comet Roller Coaster ride entrance, ca.1946-1960

The end of World War II was celebrated at Hershey Park with the addition of a new roller coaster, the Comet.  Opening for the 1946 season, the Comet replaced the 1923 Wild Cat Roller coaster.  Like the park’s first coaster, this one was designed and constructed by Herbert Schmeck and the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.  One unique feature of this coaster is that it crosses Spring Creek twice during its 3,360 foot journey. 


Hersheypark's Comet Roller Coaster crosses Spring Creek twice during its journey. ca.1960-1070


A total of 248,919 feet of lumber was used to build the double out-and-back coaster.  The coaster is built so close to town that riders’ screams can be heard on Chocolate Avenue.  The coaster features a series of drops that curve as they descend on the third and forth runs to create a more exciting ride.  The ride’s finish is a series of hills or bunny hops with a turnaround to the brake curve and loading station.


Aerial view, Hersheypark Comet Roller Coaster, ca.1946-1956

The Chocolate Factory is just a short ride away. . .

Riders wait to board the Hershey Monorail, ca.1969

Riders wait to board the Hershey Monorail, ca.1969

By the late 1960s, traffic on Chocolate Avenue during the summer months was overwhelming. Tourists wanting to tour the Chocolate Factory and visit the park often created traffic jams. Downtown parking was limited. To ease congestion Hershey Estates and Hershey Chocolate Corporation agreed share the costs of constructing a Monorail that would link Hershey Park and downtown Hershey. There were two stations, one by the Sports Arena and one at the north end of the building at One Chocolate Building. People could board the train at either station. Dedicated on June 20, 1969, the monorail was both a means of transportation and a new Park attraction. The track loop was laid out to provide riders with a scenic view of Hershey Park and the Zoo. The monorail remained a separate attraction until 1973 when the factory tours ended and it was incorporated into the new Hersheypark.


Monorail passes over the Hershey Park Turnpike ride. ca.1969