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Archive for the ‘construction’ Category

Hershey Improvement Company: Build or Buy a Home in Hershey

Beginning construction for the Hershey Chocolate factory, 1903

Beginning construction for the Hershey Chocolate factory, 1903


In 1903, when Milton Hershey broke ground for the Hershey Chocolate factory in Derry Township his plans far exceeded the construction of one building. Mr. Hershey envisioned the development of a new community; a community that featured modern facilities and residences with the objective of being an “ideal twentieth century town.”[i]


Hershey Improvement Company, an unincorporated organization that operated under the auspices of the Hershey Chocolate Company, was responsible for building the infrastructure for Mr. Hershey’s model industrial town. The Improvement Company laid out roads, sidewalks, and all of the utilities including: water, sewer, electric, and gas. The company oversaw the construction of public buildings and homes as well as all real estate transactions.


Surveyors with Herr’s Engineers. ca.1910-1912

Surveyors with Herr’s Engineers. ca.1910-1912


Potential residents had the choice of purchasing a lot from the Improvement Company and building their own home or purchasing a home constructed by the company. Between 1911 and 1915, the company constructed 150 homes. The benefits and convenience of indoor plumbing and electricity were advertised to homeowners however an emphasis was placed on the community’s amenities.


“It is the town of health; it is a paradise for children. Its great public school with everything free is a wonderful asset. It has free libraries, playgrounds, gymnasiums, clubs and all the merits of a place many times its size. These give value that mean dollars and cents to the home investment. The man who buys or builds a home not only gets the full value of that property but the additional value of the town improvement and equipment.” Hershey Press, Advertisement, 11/5/1914.


Areba Avenue looking east from Cocoa Avenue. 1912-1915

Areba Avenue looking east from Cocoa Avenue. 1912-1915


The company’s investment in the community’s infrastructure was the homeowner’s advantage. This idea exemplified the progressive ideal of capitalism and wealth being used to raise the standard of living for all.


The economic value of home-ownership, to the individual, was also emphasized in the Improvement Company’s real estate advertisements. “Property owners in Hershey are enabled to sell their property, if they so desire, making quick sales, and selling at a considerable price over their original investment….We can cite you several instances of property holders in Hershey that have sold their properties recently and pocketed a nice profit.” In this respect, Hershey’s model industrial community was unlike those that preceded it.


Hershey Press advertisement promoting the benefits of homeownership. 11/02/1911]

Hershey Press; advertisement promoting the benefits of home-ownership. 11/02/1911


For comparison, consider another celebrated company town, Pullman, Illinois.


In 1881, the first residents moved into Pullman, Illinois, a community just outside of Chicago founded by railroad car manufacturer George M. Pullman. Pullman was considered to be an ideal town that offered many of the amenities that would later be available in Hershey, Pennsylvania. An important difference between the two communities was home ownership.


In Pullman, residents were unable to buy their homes, they could only rent. Following the economic depression of 1893, the Pullman Company laid off workers and reduced wages but refused to lower rents. Workers went on strike and the community became associated with industrial strife, far short of the ideal. By 1900, the municipal functions of the community had been assumed by the city of Chicago.[i]


It is likely Milton Hershey was aware of the downfall of Pullman and planned and organized his businesses and community with these lessons in mind. He planned for a model industrial community that would remain an ideal.  “Hershey’s future is clearly established….Hershey is the model industrial town that is developing into the model home town, and in the course of another decade it will attract thousands of people.”[iii]


Hershey Press advertisement. 11/09/1911

Hershey Press; Hershey Improvement Company advertisement. 11/09/1911


Hershey Improvement Company continued to oversee the development and expansion of the Hershey community until Hershey Chocolate Company was reorganized in 1927. After the reorganization, responsibility for the management and development of the community’s infrastructure was placed under the newly created Hershey Estates.


[i]“Big Building Boom in the Chocolate Town.” Hershey Press, 31 August 1911.

[ii] Green, Hardy. The Company Town: The Industrial Edens and Satanic Mills That Shaped the American Economy.  Basic Books: New York, 2010.

[iii] “Advertisement.” Hershey Press, 5 November 1914.


Hershey Archives@30-7 To Build a Town – Step One: houses

Plan 'A' Trinidad Avenue, ca1903

Plan ‘A’ Trinidad Avenue, ca1903


Visitors to Hershey today are often impressed by the community’s well-kept homes with tidy green lawns and sidewalks.  Building attractive and comfortable homes for his workers was part of Milton Hershey’s vision for his model industrial town.


Cocoa Avenue, ca1920

Cocoa Avenue, ca1920


26 E. Areba Avenue, 1912

26 E. Areba Avenue, 1912


Most of Hershey’s residential area is located on the south side of Chocolate Avenue.  The layout for these streets and lots can be seen on this 1903 map.


However, when Milton Hershey first started building his model town, the first homes were not built there.


Aerial view of Derry Church, looking north.  Note location of Derry Presbyterian Church in right hand corner. ca1924

Aerial view of Derry Church, looking north. Note location of Derry Presbyterian Church in right hand corner. ca1924


When Milton Hershey broke ground for his chocolate factory in March 1903, he was building in the midst of farm fields and dairy pasture. He planned to build a town from scratch. Fortunately, the area that Milton Hershey selected to build his chocolate factory and model town was next to the small community of Derry Church.  Though small, Derry Church included a tavern, post office, railroad station, a Presbyterian Church, a grain mill, a few small businesses and a number of houses, all located along Derry Road.


Haefner House tavern, Derry Church, PA. ca1910

Haefner House tavern, Derry Church, PA. ca1910


Some of Hershey’s first construction workers found lodging in Derry Church and the tavern was a popular destination after work.


Map of Milton Hershey's land acquisitions, ca1903. Detail showing Trinidad Avenue

Map of Milton Hershey’s land acquisitions, ca1903. Detail showing Trinidad Avenue


Since Hershey, the town, was more of an idea than a reality in 1903, it probably made sense to build new housing for his workers adjacent to the existing town of Derry Church.


Topographical map of future Trinidad Avenue housing construction, 7/1903

Topographical map of future Trinidad Avenue housing construction, 7/1903


In July 1903, a piece of land located north of the future chocolate factory and adjacent to Derry Church was surveyed. Building lots for new worker homes were located on the rolling terrain. Soon ground was broken for 25 new homes.  Like future residential streets that would be constructed on the south side of Chocolate Avenue, this new residential street was named Trinidad Avenue, in  honor of one of the cacao growing regions in the world.


Trinidad Avenue, ca1906

Trinidad Avenue, ca1906


These houses were completed by the end of 1904, in time for the start-up of the chocolate factory. The Trinidad houses were built using two different floor plans and featured small front yards and porches.  The repetitive designs of the houses displeased Milton Hershey.  When the next houses were constructed, he made sure that the homes featured more architectural variety.


Though Milton Hershey owned other land on the north side of the railroad tracks, these were the only houses that would be built in that location. In 1905, house construction shifted to the south side of Chocolate Avenue as workers began building homes on Caracas, Granada, Cocoa and Chocolate Avenues.

HersheyArchives@30-6 Planning a town

By the late 1890s, Milton Hershey was convinced that his future lay in producing chocolate rather than caramels. In 1900, the same year Hershey introduced Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, he sold his Lancaster Caramel Company to competitors for $1 million to devote all his energies to his quickly expanding chocolate business.


Derry Township farm land, ca1900

Derry Township farm land, ca1900


By 1902 it was obvious that a new, larger factory was needed to produce milk chocolate.  After inspecting possible sites for his new chocolate factory in New York, New Jersey and Maryland, Hershey was soon convinced that the central Pennsylvania countryside would provide everything he needed for a factory: a plentiful water supply, access to rail lines, fresh milk and industrious workers.


Since Hershey planned to build his factory in the middle of farmland, not in a town, it was clear from the start that he would have to provide a place for at least some of his workers, as well as his managerial staff, to live.


In 1902, working with a real estate broker, Milton Hershey began acquiring land in Derry Township.



Map of Milton Hershey's land purchases in Derry Township, ca1903-1904

Map of Milton Hershey’s land purchases in Derry Township, ca1903-1904



By the time Hershey broke ground for his new chocolate factory in 1903, he had acquired over 1200 acres of land in Derry Township and the surrounding area. Clearly, Milton Hershey had bigger plans than simply building a chocolate factory.


The Archives is fortunate to hold this hand-drawn map in its collections.  Individual land purchases are identified by a colored outline. It is apparent that Hershey made several different land acquisitions that were pieced together to form a significant land mass.


Superimposed on the map’s outline of land purchases is a pen and ink drawing that reveals the outlines of the future town of Hershey, Pennsylvania.


Detail of map of Milton Hershey's land purchases and proposed layout of new community. ca1903

Detail of map of Milton Hershey’s land purchases and proposed layout of new community. ca1903



A closer look reveals the location of the new chocolate factory, residential streets, a car barn for the new trolley system and trolley tracks, a new schoolhouse and the location for a new building on the north side of the Berks & Dauphin Turnpike. Proposed street names have been recorded in pencil:  Chocolate Avenue for the Turnpike, Cocoa Avenue for a main street coming from the south.  Streets for the residential area will carry names of cocoa growing regions: Ceylon, Caracas, Granada, Trinidad.


Milton Hershey’s vision and desire to build a model industrial new town, as revealed with this map, are confirmed with articles that were published locally and in business trade journals.


On February 19, 1903, the Harrisburg Independent published an article describing Milton Hershey’s plans:


“A New Town Near Derry Church to Cost a Million”

“To Be Built By M.S. Hershey the Chocolate Man”

“Is Leaving His Lancaster Plant and Will Build Up

a Modern Laboring Community

for Benefit of 600 Employees”


                A new town which will have a population of 1500 will be built midway between Derry Church and Swatara, this county, along the line of the Philadelphia and Reading railway, by M.S. Hershey, the Lancaster chocolate manufacturer, who has large manufacturing interests in various parts of the State.

                He has already begun work there on the erection of a new factory, which will employ 600 men, to supersede the plant at Lancaster, and his purpose in building the new town is to form a modern dwelling community for his employees and their families.  Mr. Hershey has planned an expenditure of $1,000,000 to further his enterprise.

                                                                . . .

               The town will be laid out along plans of modern manufacturing communities which are now springing up, all over this country, patterned after those in England.  It will contain grass plots for pleasure parks in which there will be fountains and stone walks.  The street will be made of crushed stone taken from the quarries and stone crushing machinery has already been installed. 



The factory would be completed in 1905 and the town would develop along the lines revealed in the map.


Building to Impress: A New Home for the Hershey Trust Company

New Year.  New Exhibit.  I’ve just mounted a new display in the Archives’ exhibit case in the Grand Lobby of The Hershey Story.  This time the exhibit takes a look at building a new building for Hershey Trust Company.


Once Milton Hershey set his mind to something, he moved quickly and decisively.  And building a town for his new chocolate factory was no exception.  During the town’s first thirteen years, construction was constant as buildings went up, were enlarged and even replaced as the town grew.  The reason, of course, was because Hershey’s chocolate business was booming and the town needed to grow to accommodate the growing numbers of workers being hired for the chocolate factory.


View of Hershey from the chocolate factory smokestack.  ca1906-1909

View of Hershey from the chocolate factory smokestack. ca1906-1909


Hershey, of course, was much more than the chocolate factory.  Milton Hershey established a wide variety of businesses to serve the town.  Hershey Trust Company, the town’s first bank, opened in 1905.  By 1910, the trust company’s business was outgrowing its original home.  Milton Hershey asked noted Lancaster architect, C. Emlen Urban, to design a building appropriate for the town’s financial institution.  His design for the new building incorporated classical elements to reflect the importance of its primary occupant.


Titzel Construction Company construction crew stands in front of the future Hershey Trust Company.  1913

Titzel Construction Company construction crew stands in front of the future Hershey Trust Company. 1913


On August 20, 1912, workers broke ground for a new bank building at the intersection of Cocoa and Chocolate Avenues.  Various construction setbacks delayed the completion of the building for almost a year.  The building finally opened in the summer of 1914.


Archival collections hold many documents that trace the path and delays of construction.  If you’re in town, stop in and check out the new exhibit.

The pedestrian tunnel opens, finally!


 If you live in or near Hershey, you are aware that downtown Hershey has been under construction for for the last couple years.  There are several projects going on:  straightening the intersection of Cocoa and Chocolate Avenues, building a new bridge over the railroad tracks (to replace a bridge that was built over 100 years ago), and building two pedestrian tunnels: one under Chocolate Avenue and the other under Park Avenue by the entrance to ZooAmerica. 


Hershey Train Station, ca.1915


 This is not the first time Hershey has built a pedestrian tunnel to improve safety.   


West bound train arrives at Hershey railroad station. ca.194-1920


Passengers disembark an eastbound train at the Hershey railroad station. ca.1913



Years ago, when people rode trains to get to Hershey and locals took the train to Harrisburg and Philadelphia, there was quite a bit of foot traffic to get to one side of the train tracks or the other. If you arrived at Hershey via a westbound train and wanted to get to Chocolate Avenue, the factory, or the Department Store, you would have to walk over the railroad bridge on your way to Chocolate Avenue. After a day at Hershey Park, to get to the south side tracks for trains traveling east, travelers had to walk over the railroad bridge and then over to the passenger station.



When it was snowing or icy, this inconvenient route became dangerous.  The steep rise of the bridge made walking challenging.  In bad weather the footpath over the bridge was often slippery with ice and snow.  By 1912 residents and visitors were clamoring for a easier, safer way for pedestrians to cross the train tracks.



As part of Hershey’s planning for its 10th anniversary in 1913, a decision was made to build a pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks.  The Hershey Press carried news of plans for a new tunnel.


 Hershey Press, 3/20/1913


Construction did not go smoothly.  In late April 1913, heavy rains caused two cave-ins and delayed the tunnel opening.  It was not ready in time for the Community’s 10th anniversary celebration.  It finally opened in early July 1913.  To read the details about the tunnel, visit the Archives’ website and read the Hershey Press newspaper for yourself.

All the comforts of home: Hershey Motor Lodge

The Lodge opened in 1967, offering guest curbside access to their guest rooms.  ca.1967-1969

The Lodge opened in 1967, offering guest curbside access to their guest rooms. ca.1967-1969

During the 1950s and 1960s Hershey was a sought after place for recreation, entertainment and business.  The influx of tourists created parking and traffic problems.  Hershey Estates, the owner of all of Hershey’s attractions and lodging venues, struggled to met the growing demands of visitors to the town.  While Milton Hershey had been alive, he had provided the necessary funds to keep Hershey an attractive destination without concern for profits.  After his death, profitability became more important and without adequate funding, facilities often appeared worn and tired.

Hershey’s  Cocoa Inn had many faults:  inadequate wiring, plumbing and room layout.  The downtown site was plagued by severe sinkholes.  Limited parking made the facility unattractive to the modern tourist family.  In response to the growing automobile based tourist business Hershey Estates began planning for a large 200 room motel on the west end of town.  The future Hershey Motor Lodge was a visible symbol of Hershey Estates’ new focus on entertainment and resorts.

Aerial view of new Hershey Motor Lodge, ca.1967

Aerial view of new Hershey Motor Lodge, ca.1967

Construction for the Motor Lodge was hampered by sinkholes, a well-known obstacle in Hershey.  The location for the Lodge’s entrance was changed three times because of them. Opening May 1, 1967, the Hershey Motor Lodge featured 200 guest rooms, the Hearth Room Restaurant, two meeting rooms capable of holding 400 people, and a free-form outdoor swimming pool.

Not part of the original plans, the Forebay Cocktail Lounge was added in 1968

Not part of the original plans, the Forebay Cocktail Lounge was added in 1968

Interestingly, since the primary market was seen as families, plans for the Motor Lodge called for the facility to be totally alcohol free.  It wasn’t until shortly after opening that Hershey reconsidered that decision and the brand new facility was renovated to add a cocktail lounge (The Forebay).

The lake that marks the main entrance to the Motor Lodge was also another addition to the original design.  The lake was added at the request of James Bobb, then Hershey Estates’ president.  The architect, contractor and consulting engineer all argued against the idea, citing the extensive and complex system of sinkholes.  To create the pond, individual sinkholes were filled with crushed stone and sometimes sealed with concrete, and then the entire bed of the lake was sealed with “Bentonite,” a special mixture of clay which bonds and holds water.  Anytime it rained, the pond would fill.  When needed, the pond could also be refilled from a nearby farm’s water source.

To learn more about the growth and development of the Hershey Lodge, visit the chronology database available on the Archives’ website and search on ‘Hershey Lodge.’

Surveying Hershey

Last January (2011) the Archives received a collection of 226 field survey books created over the course of 70 years as Hershey engineering crews surveyed newly acquired land and recorded plans for bridges, roads, trolley lines, buildings and residential lots.  Beginning with the first entry, dated June 22, 1902, the books document the development of the Hershey community as Milton Hershey planned and built his model town.



Within the books’ pages, you can trace the route of Hershey’s trolley system and see through whose property the trolley lines passed, see the footprint of the new chocolate factory and how it was placed on the designated land, follow the evolution of Hershey Park, the development of Hershey’s residential streets and lots, and see how the town grew and evolved.




The Archives exhibit case in The Hershey Story lobby highlights materials from its collections.

The Archives exhibit case in The Hershey Story lobby highlights materials from its collections.




In the Archives’ changing exhibit case located in the lobby of The Hershey Story, a new exhibit features four of the field survey books and connects the information in the books with other archival records to tell a story of Hershey’s past.  Here’s an example from the exhibit:




Drawing of new Hershey Chocolate Company smokestack, 1924.  Field Survey book #33, p. 142

Drawing of new Hershey Chocolate Company smokestack, 1924. Field Survey book #33, p. 142




Hershey Chocolate factory expanded frequently to meet the growing demand for Hershey’s milk chocolate.  An article in the Hershey Press noted the chocolate factory’s need for new power. 


Hershey Chocolate Company, plan for new smokestack, 5/19/1924

Hershey Chocolate Company, plan for new smokestack. 5/19/1924



In 1924 the engineering department drew up plans for the new powerplant including plans for a new smokestack.  Later that year the powerhouse was enlarged with five new boilers and a new yellow-brick smokestack to meet increased demands for power to run the factory.   Like Hershey Chocolate Company’s other smokestacks, plans called for “HERSHEY” to be spelled out in darker bricks.

If you are in the neighborhood, stop by The Hershey Story and check out the Archives exhibit case to see more examples from the Field Survey Book collection.  It will be up through March 2012.