Located in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, 13 miles east of Harrisburg
Closest airport: Harrisburg International Airport (MDT)

Population: (1990 census) 11,860
Today, closer to 20,500

The town of Hershey was founded by Milton S. Hershey, a chocolate maker from nearby Derry Church, Pennsylvania. After selling his successful Lancaster Caramel Company in 1900, he decided to focus his business on chocolate; specifically, he wanted to open a large milk chocolate factory, as milk chocolate was a Swiss luxury at the time, and not widely available in the United States. The area around Derry Church was perfect, providing ample space for the milk-producing cows that would be vital to this new product. Construction began on the new Hershey factory in 1903, and was completed in 1905; soon, Hershey's milk chocolate was available nationwide.

Hershey needed a great number of employees to keep his factory running, and he believed that it was his responsibility to provide a community for them near the factory. Company towns around large factories were not uncommon at the time, but Hershey wanted a community with a genuine small-town feel, not just the usual row houses. Hershey's town offered brick homes, tree-lined streets, and also a small park with amusement rides. This park eventually grew into Hershey Park.

Hershey also oversaw the construction of The Hotel Hershey, which is now a member of the National Trust. Among his charitable endeavors were the Milton S. Hershey School for underprivileged children, and the M.S. Hershey Foundation (which funds the Hershey Community Archives, the Hershey Theater, and the Hershey Museum and Gardens).

Hershey is undeniably a town centered on chocolate – you can smell chocolate throughout the town, the streets have names like Cocoa Avenue, and the streetlights are in the shape of Hershey Kisses.

What to do, what to do...
For a small town, Hershey offers many attractions. First and foremost, there's Hershey Park, with 8 roller coasters, 5 water rides, along with calmer rides, entertainment and shows. There's also:

  • ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park - an 11-acre zoo featuring animals of North America
  • Hershey's Chocolate WorldVisitor center with a "simulated" tour of the chocolate factory; also has a gift shop
  • Hershey Museum – dedicated to the life and work of Milton S. Hershey
  • Hershey Gardens – 23-acre botanical garden
  • Hershey Trolley WorksTrolley tour
  • Thanks to www.hersheypa.com for providing valuable info

    One of your fellow noders is related to the "under-privileged children" which Milton Hersey's school raised, mentioned in chacha's writeup. My family is from east-central Pennsylvania. My mother's parents died when she was very young. While my mother and sister were adopted by an aunt, they could not afford to take in my mother's five brothers. The boys were raised by the Hershey School for Boys (as the orphanage was known in the 1930's).

    My own memory of Hershey comes, however, from school field trips. In the late 1960's the tour of the factory was not "simulated" in theme-park style, as it is today. Until 1973, you could tour the actual factory: behind glass, but right in the heart of the shiny beast. At one point in the process of making chocolate, the chocolate "liquor" (liquified "nibs" of cacao beans after the shells are removed) is heated and rolled with giant granite rollers for up to 72 hours, to remove the gritty texture of the cocoa and mix it with cocoa butter. This process is called conching. The conching machines at Hershey were enormous: the size of swimming pools. Whenever I melt baker's chocolate for brownies I am reminded of those rollers pushing great waves of molten chocolate around, the heat radiating through the glass, and the overwhelming delicious smell.

    We also saw great assembly lines pouring and wrapping and packaging the individual Hershey Kisses and candy bars, and got some free chocolate at the end of the tour, but the conching machines are the part I remember well, 30 years later.

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