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Looking for something to do? Hershey’s Y.M.C.A.

The Hershey Press promoted starting a Y.M.C.A. with articles and advertisements. 11/19/1909


Providing opportunities for recreation and continuing education has always been an important part of the Hershey community.  Today those opportunities are provided by a number of organizations, including the Hershey Public Library, Derry Township Parks and Recreation, The M.S. Hershey Foundation and community groups such as the Hershey Figure Skating Club, Hershey Symphony Orchestra and the Hershey Community Chorus, just to name a few.


Milton Hershey knew that in order for his new community to thrive, the workers and residents needed opportunities to exercise their bodies and their minds when they were not at work or school.  He encouraged residents to establish a variety of clubs and organizations to provide those opportunities.


The Young Men’s Christian Association began in the mid-19th century as a reaction to the challenges young single men living apart from their families faced.  By the turn of the 20th century, the Y.M.C.A. had grown into an organization that offered men, single and married, a variety of programs to nurture their bodies and their minds.  In addition, most Y.M.C.A.s offered lodging, continuing education courses and reading rooms.


Hershey was only a few years old when plans to establish a Y.M.C.A. were announced   The Hershey Press and its editor, C.S.Gee, were strong advocates for the new organization.



Hershey Press, 10/29/1909



Editor Gee published almost weekly articles on the Press’ front page promoting the new organization.  On December 17,1909, a list of men in support of establishing a “Y” was published in the paper.


The Cocoa House served as the headquarters for Hershey’s Y.M.C.A. ca.1911


The “Y” was officially established on Tuesday, January 18, 1910.  The Cocoa House was designated as its headquarters.  Plans were soon announced that a new gymnasium and indoor swimming pool would be built behind the Cocoa House.  Completed by the end of the year, the new addition enabled the Y.M.C.A. to offer a wide range of services, including a variety of sports (teams and classes), a reading room, boarding rooms for single men.  Since the Hershey Trust Company was also located in the building, the Cocoa House was a center for community activity.


While the Hershey Y.M.C.A. programs were popular locally, the club’s relations with the national organization became strained over time.  By 1913, Hershey resented many of the national organization’s rules, including restrictions on who could vote and the minimum age for membership. Hershey decided to break its ties to the national organization and in October 1913, the “Y” was renamed the Hershey Men’s Club.


Hershey Men’s Club, Gymnasium Class, ca.1914


Hershey’s Y.M.C.A.

YMCA, Busy Men's Gym Class, ca. 1912-1913

YMCA, Busy Men's Gym Class, ca. 1912-1913

The Y.M.C.A. [Young Men’s Christian Association] was first established in London, England in 1844, in response to poor living conditions resulting from the industrial revolution. The goal of the organization was the “improvement of the spiritual, mental, social and physical condition of young men.” YMCAs quickly spread to the United States. A chapter was established in Harrisburg in 1854 and in Lancaster in 1859.


The Hershey Chocolate Factory had only been open four years when Milton Hershey proposed organizing a YMCA in Hershey. The Cocoa House, located at the intersection of Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues, was expanded with the construction of a gymnasium, sixty by ninety feet. It included a mezzanine level running track that encircled the gym, which was also used as a spectator gallery for basketball games. A large swimming pool, locker rooms, and showers were constructed in the basement. The new addition also included a game room, with billiard tables, pool tables and a shuffleboard.


Hershey’s new newspaper, “Hershey Press,” heavily promoted the new organization, running front page stories about YMCAs almost every week during the fall of 1909. By December 17 the paper listed 85 people as the first members of the new organization. The “Y” officially opened February 3, 1910 with an open house and lecture.


YMCA quickly became an important part of Hershey’s recreational and cultural life. True to the national organization’s commitment to encourage the development of men’s body, minds and spirit, the Hershey “Y” offered a variety of exercise programs and organized a variety of sports teams, including basketball, football and baseball teams. It hosted lectures and performances for the community. The “Y” also offered boarding rooms for single men and housed a reading room.


In 1914 the Hershey discontinued its association with the national YMCA. The program was reorganized as the Hershey’s Men’s Club which continued the programs of the “Y” but operated as an independent organization.

Providing for the town’s financial needs: Hershey Trust Company

Hershey Trust Company, first office; Cocoa House, ca. 1905
Hershey Trust Company, first office; Cocoa House, ca. 1905


April 1905: Construction for the new chocolate factory had been completed during the winter and the factory was gearing up for full production. Construction of the Cocoa House had recently been completed. It provided housing and meals for single men as well as office space for a variety of businesses needed by the new town. First and foremost Milton Hershey needed a bank to handle the varied finances of the new community. Earlier in the year he had applied to the state for permission to establish a trust company that would serve as the community’s bank. A state charter was granted on April 27, 1905 and Hershey Trust Company opened for business on June 15, 1905 in offices located in the Cocoa House. A published brochure advertised a wide scope of banking services. In addition to handling the Hershey business payrolls, the Trust Company offered savings accounts, mortgages, and commercial and personal loans.

The decision to establish a trust company rather than a bank was made after Milton Hershey sought advice from the Northern National Bank of Lancaster, PA. In his reply, E.J. Ryder, the Northern National cashier, suggested that in addition to taking mortgages, a trust company would have the added advantage of doing fiduciary business.

Still, in 1905 Milton Hershey’s town was more of an idea than an actuality. Though the chocolate factory began full operations that summer, little else was operating in town. Another year would pass before the community was officially named, when the United States Postmaster granted Milton Hershey permission to establish a new post office.

Hershey Trust Company quickly became the town’s financial center, playing an important role in financing Milton Hershey’s construction and development plans. It was instrumental in the growth and development of the town, advertising mortgages in ads that encouraged people to build a home in the new community. The Trust Company advertised frequently in the local papers, encouraging residents to start savings accounts and to plan for the future. To broaden its accessibility, special deposit stations were established on Hershey trolleys. Specialized savings accounts, such as Christmas Savings Clubs, were clever gimmicks promoted by the Trust Company to encourage new account business. Bank accounts were also promoted as a means to future retirement security.



Hershey Trust Company advertisement, published in Hershey's Progressive Weekly, October 17, 1912

Hershey Trust Company advertisement, published in Hershey's Progressive Weekly, 7/10/1913



 Hershey Trust Company continued to serve as the community’s bank for the next two decades. However, in 1918, the Trust Company took on a new responsibility when Milton Hershey transferred his ownership of the Hershey Chocolate Company, then valued at $60 million, to the Hershey Industrial School Trust fund (today Milton Hershey School).

With Milton Hershey’s gift, the Trust Company needed to direct more of its efforts toward the management of the School Trust’s assets. In particular, the Trust Company assumed responsibility for Milton Hershey’s land assets, by then more than 10,000 acres of land in and around Hershey as well as his other financial investments. As the Trust Company assumed these new responsibilities, it became apparent that the town needed a new financial institution to provide the more traditional banking services for the community. To free the Trust Company for its duties as Trustee of the School Trust, the Hershey National Bank, a nationally chartered institution, was established in 1925 to handle the town’s commercial banking needs.