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Archive for December, 2013

Things old are new again: Hershey’s Modern Office Building

Hershey Chocolate Corporation Modern Office Building, 1935

Hershey Chocolate Corporation Modern Office Building, 1935


People who regularly drive through Hershey on Rt. 422 (Chocolate Avenue) have noticed all the construction and reconstruction taking place at the original chocolate factory.  Included in this project is construction work being done to the building at 19 East Chocolate Avenue, a structure also known as the Windowless or Modern Office Building.  Completed in 1935, this building served as the corporate headquarters for Hershey Chocolate for over forty years.  Today, this building is the heart of The Hershey Company’s operational offices.


When the building was constructed, much of the world was struggling under the financial stress of the Great Depression. Jobs were lost as businesses retrenched.  In Hershey, there was a different experience.  Milton Hershey responded to the economic upheaval with a construction program.  During the 1930s, many of Hershey’s monumental structures were built, including Hotel Hershey, Milton Hershey School’s Catherine Hall (then the Junior-Senior High School), the Community Building (14E), Hershey Sports Arena and the Modern Office Building for the Hershey Chocolate Corporation.


Milton Hershey’s great interest in innovation and experimentation shaped the design of this new office building.


Original plans for the building called for a conventional design with windows and awnings.  As the foundation was being dug, Milton Hershey became intrigued with the idea of a windowless facility.  Such a design would dramatically increase the efficiency of the heating and cooling systems.  At Mr. Hershey’s direction, architect/builder D. Paul Witmer, quickly drew up new plans and construction continued without any delay.


Under construction:  Hershey's Modern Office Building.  1935

Under construction: Hershey’s Modern Office Building. 1935


The building was constructed of locally quarried limestone.  Construction began in the fall of 1934 and was completed in December 1935.


The building was a real testament to Hershey skills and ingenuity.  The building was designed and built by the Hershey Lumber Company (Paul Witmer serving as its manager).  Certain interior building products were installed by the Hershey Department Store.


There was quite a bit of excitement regarding the opening of the new office building.  Hershey Chocolate Corporation hosted a public open house on December 28, 1935.  Almost 14,000 people attended during the day long event.  The Hotel Hershey Highlights noted that the open house commenced at 9:00 a.m. and doors didn’t close until 9:00 p.m.


Printed for the building's open house, the booklet described many of the bulding's unique features.  1935

Printed for the building’s open house, the booklet described many of the bulding’s unique features. 1935


Visitors received a booklet, printed by the chocolate factory print shop, describing the building’s special features.  In particular, the booklet described the building’s interior plan, its atmosphere:

“Conditioned air, dust free,”

lighting, flooring, ceilings, walls:

“The room devoted to calculating machines and other noisy equipment has its walls of the same special acoustic plaster as is used on the lobby ceiling,”


Hershey Chocolate Corporation; Payroll record keeping department.  ca.1935-1940

Hershey Chocolate Corporation; Payroll record keeping department. ca.1935-1940


furniture, and telephone system:


“communicating facilities are provided between all office and the plant by dial telephones” and messenger service: “special small box type elevators connect the Receiving Department with the Mailing Desk.  A pneumatic tube system connects the Traffic Department with the Shipping and Stock Rooms of the plant for the rapid, safe delivery of all orders.”


Today the building is in the midst of major renovations to make it a functional and modern (once again) office space for The Hershey Company.



Celebrating Christmas


Each year Hershey Chocolate Corporation decorated its office building with lights for th holiday season.  ca.1963

Each year Hershey Chocolate Corporation decorated its office building with lights for th holiday season. ca.1963


Later this week, Hershey will gather in front of the Community Building on (14E) Chocolate Avenue to mark the beginning of the holiday season with the lighting of the community Christmas tree.


This is tradition stretches back to 1915. That year the Hershey’s Mother’s Club was inspired to put up the community’s first Christmas tree.  The idea for having a community Christmas tree may have been inspired by a community tree first erected in New York City’s Madison Square in 1913.


The Hershey Press announced the erection of a community Christmas tree in its 12/13/1915 issue.

The Hershey Press announced the erection of a community Christmas tree in its 12/13/1915 issue.


 The article noted that the lighting ceremony would be held that evening at 7 p.m. and would include carols sung by the school children and a time for singing by the attendees. 


Hershey Press, 12/30/1915

Hershey Press, 12/30/1915


As the next week’s issue of the Hershey Press noted, the event was highly successful.  Over 200 attended, a significant number when you remember that the entire town’s population was only 1500 people.


With that simple, last minute plan to erect a community Christmas tree, a long-lived tradition was born.  While at times the tradition was interrupted or altered because of world wars, each Christmas holiday season Hershey gathers together to celebrate the season.  To learn more, visit the Hershey Community Archives.



 Text of the 12/23/1915 Hershey Press article:

Will Be Located at Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues and Will Be Beautifully Illuminated—-

Exercises Thursday Evening: at 7 O’clock—Committee

Hershey is to have a community Christmas tree! 
At the meeting last week the Mothers’ Club took up the suggestion of Miss Margaret Langworthy and appointed the president, Mrs. Ezra F. Hershey, to put the idea into execution. There was not much time for the work, but Mrs. Hershey secured the co-operation of James B. Leithiser, and he promptly enlisted the facilities of the Hershey Improvement Company. James Millard was asked to secure the tree, and as this issue of the Press is being printed the tree is being carried to the chief comer, of the town and installed for the great holiday. It is a superb cedar, and it will be wonderfully illuminated by many electric lights placed under the direction of Mr. Hull.

Everybody is invited to join in the affair. The exercises will be held Thursday evening at 7 o’clock, and the whole town, with invited guests from the surrounding country will be present. No long program will be attempted. There will be a short speech and then Christmas carols by the school
children and choruses by the assembled men, women and children. It will be a genuine old-fashioned time and it is expected to be the main event of the Christmastide.
The Mothers’ Club is doing great work for the children.