This extraordinary Depression-era expenditure was modeled after a postcard of a Mediterranean hotel.
More than three million people head to Hersheypark every year, zooming around on its rides and indulging in the many chocolate-themed experiences. But many of these visitors don’t realize that the park is much more than a fun-filled attraction—it’s also a testament to its founder’s urban planning legacy.
Best known for his founding of a massive chocolate empire, Milton S. Hershey also was a pioneer in worker’s welfare and urban planning. His vision wasn’t just to supply people with jobs, but to provide a true company town, one where workers would have their needs holistically supplied by the company itself.
The town of Hershey was carved out of Derry township and included its own schools, minor league hockey team, stadiums, pioneering mass transit system, and water recreational area (later converted into the regionally famous amusement park).
The Depression took its toll on Hershey’s company, but despite the objections of close friends and even his own mother, he decided to build an extravagant housing facility overlooking his utopian town. Hershey originally wanted to model the property on the Heliopolis Hotel in Cairo, but when that proved too expensive, he decided to give his chief engineer D. Paul Witmer a postcard of a smaller hotel in the Mediterranean for use as inspiration.
The hotel was completed on May 23, 1933, and was celebrated with a formal opening on May 26, 1933, with a dinner and dance for 400 guests. Congressman John Snyder gave the toast, but the highlight was when Hershey made a speech. The Lancaster Sunday News quoted him as saying, “I am but a simple farmer. I like to utilize nature’s beauty for the pleasure of men. This hotel where you are assembled has been a dream of mine for many years”
The following year, a nine-hole golf course was built, and the year after that, the Castilian Room was built. The hotel has continued to make upgrades and is now a four-diamond hotel with the full-service “chocolate spa,” tennis courts, an outdoor pool, botanical gardens, and more golf. Perhaps what would make Hershey proud is the view it affords of his utopian town and amusement park from up high.
Know Before You Go
If you're interested in staying in the hotel, you can see its various packages online. Or, if you don't want to stay here, it's fun to just walk around the premises to feel a whiff of the high life of the gilded age.
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