At a time when the nation was gripped in the throes of the Great Depression, Milton S. Hershey undertook to build a magnificent hotel atop Pat's Hill overlooking his chocolate factory in Hershey,
Hershey, having perfected his formula for milk chocolate and constructed
the factory nearly three decades earlier, was faced during the Depression
with the prospect of either employing his town's construction workers or
providing for their welfare. Over the objections of his close friends
and associates who urged him to conserve his resources, and his mother,
who said the idea was hopelessly extravagant, Hershey announced in 1930
that he intended to build a Hotel. It had been a dream of Hershey
and his wife, Catherine, for many years.
A PROUD HISTORY
At the same time, he would build a community building and a junior-senior high school on Pat's Hill as his school
for boys who had lost one or both of their parents.
"We have about 600 construction workers in this town," he said. "If I
provide work for them, I'll have to feed them. And since building materials
are now at their lowest cost levels, I'm going to build and give them jobs."
Originally Mr. and Mrs. Hershey dreamed of recreating a famous Egyptian
resort, Cairo’s Heliopolis Hotel. The Heliopolis Palace Hotel was
an elaborate, red-tiled, "Citadel of the Sun," with royal suites,
marble stairways, gardens, fountains, and vistaed approaches. Mr. Hershey
went so far as to purchase the architectural plans but balked at the
estimated $5 million construction costs. Planning for the hotel brought
Kitty Hershey a great deal of pleasure.
Kitty Hershey’s death in 1915 and the onset of World War I delayed
the start of construction.
During these years Milton Hershey developed a different vision for his
hotel. While surveyors began mapping the Hotel site, Milton Hershey gave
his architect and chief engineer, D. Paul Witmer a picture postcard showing
the front view of a 30-room hotel the Hershey's had enjoyed on the Mediterranean.
It had a U-shaped base with a tower at either end. Witmer was charged with
using the design to create a 170-room hotel.
That was not the end of Hershey's ideas for the project. He and Catherine had kept notes of their travels abroad, and Hershey instructed Witmer to outfit the new hotel with a Spanish patio, tiled floors, a fountain and a dining room with a good view from every table. "In some places, if you don't tip well, they put you in a corner," Hershey said. "I don't want any corners."
During construction, as many as 800 steelworkers, masons, carpenters and
other craftsmen and laborers were employed on the Hershey payroll. The
work proceeded at a breathtaking pace. The project was begun in 1931,
continued through a very mild winter and was completed on May 23, 1933.
Hershey held a formal opening celebration on May 26, 1933, with a dinner and dance for 400 invited guests. He told the assemblage, "I am 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 $2 million hotel opened for business the next day. Hershey realized
his dream and created an elegant hostelry designed according to the 19th
century manner of the "grand hotel." The hotel is characterized by great
luxury and elegance. Tinted walls, palms and fountains, carved and grilled
woodwork and brilliant hangings and rugs can be found throughout.
Through the years at The Hotel Hershey
A nine-hole golf course was built on the grounds in 1934
The grand ballroom, named the Castilian Room, opened in June, 1935
That fall, a wine cellar and the Hotel's first service bar were opened
after being delayed by Prohibition.
Air conditioning was installed during the 1950's
Meeting rooms were added in 1957 to satisfy the growing demands of
The outdoor swimming pool was opened in 1961
A new wing with 100 guest rooms, named the West Tower, opened
A new restaurant, The Fountain Cafe, was added in 1993
A coffee shop, the Cocoa Beanery opened in 1997
The Spa At The Hotel Hershey opened in 2001
The Spa expanded in 2004, nearly doubling in size
Today, The Hotel Hershey is recognized as one of the great resorts of North America,
where guests can enjoy spa, tennis, indoor and outdoor swimming,
cross-country skiing, tobogganing, lawn bowling, hiking, and many more
The Hotel Hershey is a longtime recipient of the American Automobile
Association Four Diamond Award. In addition, The Hotel has received The
Family Circle Magazine "Family Resort of The Year" Award for the past several
years, the Gold Key Award presented by Meetings and Conventions Magazine
and the Pinnacle Award presented by Successful Meetings Magazine in recognition
of outstanding meeting facilities.
World traveler Lowell Thomas once described The Hotel as a "palace that out palaces the palaces of the Maharajahs of India."