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Hershey, Pennsylvania is a vacation destination that grew from a rural farming community. While someone just passing through might say there are no remarkable structures in Hershey, the truth is somewhat surprising. Yes, there is a preponderance of red brick Colonials and farmhouses in Central Pennsylvania. But Milton Hershey is responsible for adding some eye-opening architecture to the mix.
On Chocolate Avenue, you'll see the lifeblood of the community: the main Hershey factory. The attached windowless office building was commissioned by Mr. Hershey in Art Deco style. The limestone for this office building was quarried by Italian immigrants brought to the area by the promise of jobs -- once the building projects were completed, many stayed and worked in Mr. Hershey's chocolate factory.
If Art Deco is your thing, look north of the town to Pat's Hill. There, you'll find the recently renovated Catherine Hall of the Milton Hershey School. The original structure was built during the Depression years—it was one of several buildings that Milton Hershey constructed to give his employees meaningful work when times were tough at the chocolate factory. Although it was slated for demolition just a few years ago, pressure from MHS alumni and the community resulted in an expensive restoration effort. Now the "Old Senior Hall" renovations are complete, and the building will serve as a middle school for MHS students—and a mighty impressive one at that.
Another building project initiated by Mr. Hershey during the Great Depression was the Hotel Hershey. Mr. Hershey and his wife, Kitty, had toured the Mediterranean and came back to Hershey inspired to build a hotel in that grand 19th-century Mediterranean style. The Hotel Hershey, completed in 1933, overlooks the town of Hershey. Its green tiles, archways and Trompe L'Oeil indoor "courtyards" somehow fit in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania.
Returning to Chocolate Avenue, visitors to Hershey will find another Mediterranean-styled gem: the Hershey Theatre. Tourists who take the time to take one of the theater's weekly behind-the-scenes tours are rewarded with a vision of rare Central Pennsylvania opulence. For example, the ceiling of the theater's inner lobby is covered by a golden mosaic, which was created by two German artists and recalls St. Mark's Basilica in Venice. The theater itself also reflects a Venetian theme, with one of the few remaining "atmospheric ceilings" in the United States.
Near the Hershey Theatre on Chocolate Avenue, visitors will spot the newly renovated Hershey Press Building, another jewel in Hershey's architectural crown. And meandering along this small town's residential streets, you'll see much more than Colonial clapboard -- you'll see some fine examples of Craftsman-style architecture as well.
Yes, for a town of fewer than 30,000 residents, Hershey boasts a surprising variety of fine architecture for those who open their eyes!