Hershey, Pennsylvania – the town that chocolate built

The town of Hershey in Pennsylvania owes its entire existence to chocolate. It was built by Milton Hershey to house his workers close to what was then the biggest chocolate factory in the world. Completed in 1905, the revolutionary factory produced milk chocolate bars, which until then were only available as luxury Swiss imports, and became the first product to be marketed nationally throughout the USA.

Because of his Mennonite background, as well as producing the world’s best chocolate, Hershey also had an overwhelming desire to build a model town around his factory. He wanted to afford his employees comfortable homes, inexpensive transport, education for their children, and recreational facilities, like many chocolate manufacturers of his time. Over in England Joseph Rowntree, a fervent Quaker was also building his model town of New Earswick near his factory in York, mirroring the development of Hershey’s empire in Pennsylvania.

Modern-day Hershey is still relatively small, recording a population of just over 12,700 in the 2000 census, and carries the nickname Chocolatetown. As you can imagine everything in and around the town relates to Hershey and chocolate, so if you are not fond of the sweet stuff it’s not the place for you!

Adjacent to the town is Hersheypark, one of the USA’s original theme parks. Opened in 1907 it was originally a private leisure park solely for the benefit of Hershey employees, but eventually was opened up to the general public. Now the park stretches over 110 acres and contains over 60 rides and other attractions, including 10 hair-raising roller coasters. There is so much to do at Hersheypark that many visitors choose to spend a night or two at a hotel in Hershey so that they can make the most of their visit to Chocolatetown.

As well as Hersheypark there are many other sights in and around the town of Hershey; ZooAmerica – a fantastic North American Wildlife Park that is firmly pro-conservation and where animal welfare is paramount, and Hershey Chocolate World – an interactive chocolate experience – are two of the biggest. Other attractions include; the Hershey Bears – the ice hockey team that have been playing in the town for 70 years, and other leisure activities such as golf, concerts and shows.

Although many of the modern attractions and activities in Hershey would have been beyond the imagination of Milton Hershey – the man who was responsible for starting it all – there is no doubt that he would be fascinated and enthralled by everything that has grown up in his name. If he was alive today he would no doubt be as excited as the many children that visit Hersheypark today.