A Sweet History of The Hotel Hershey
A PROUD TRADITION SINCE 1933
Celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2023, The Hotel Hershey is one of America's landmark hotels since 1933 and one of Milton S. Hershey's greatest achievements. At a time when the nation was gripped in the throes of the Great Depression, Mr. Hershey undertook the building of a magnificent hotel atop Pat's Hill overlooking his chocolate factory in Hershey, Pa. Today, The Hotel Hershey is recognized as one of the finest Historic Hotels of America, known for its refined elegance, signature service and abundant amenities.
The Idea for a Hotel
Hershey, having perfected his formula for milk chocolate and constructed the factory nearly three decades earlier, was faced during the Great 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 the Hotel. It had been a dream of Hershey and his wife, Catherine, for many years. 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 600 construction workers in this town," he said. "If I don't 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."
Before Catherine Hershey died in 1915, she urged her husband to build a hotel "like the great Heliopolis Hotel in Cairo," Egypt. Now, as Hershey finally prepared to construct the Hotel, he contacted the architect of the Heliopolis and arranged to purchase his plans. But when it was estimated that the cost of duplicating the structure would be $5 million, Hershey abandoned the idea.
Instead, he 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 tasked 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 circular 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 1932, continued through a very mild winter and was completed on May 23, 1933.
The Grand Opening
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 had realized his dream and created an elegant hotel designed according to the 19th century manner of the "grand hotel." A local newspaper observed, "Somewhat belying the simplicity of taste for which the 'Chocolate King' is noted, the hotel is characterized by great luxury of detail and elegance of appointment. Tinted walls, palms and fountains, carved and grilled woodwork and brilliant hangings and rugs."
Additions to The Hotel Hershey
A nine-hole golf course was built on The Hotel Hershey 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 opened after being delayed by Prohibition. Air conditioning was installed during the 1950s and meeting rooms were added in 1957 to satisfy the growing demands of group business. An outdoor swimming pool opened in 1961, a 100-room new wing in 1977, The Fountain Cafe (today called Trevi 5) in 1994 and Cocoa Beanery (today called Chef's Market) in 1997.
In 1998, The Hotel Hershey refurbished 91 of its guest rooms to the Mediterranean style of its exterior. The Hotel also added four Executive Suites and a new Presidential Suite. The French doors of the Presidential Suite open onto a large terrace overlooking the Hershey Gardens, making it a premier site for VIP receptions. Guests of The Hotel Hershey have long enjoyed the nearby Hershey Gardens, a botanical display garden which graces more than 20 acres just south of The Hotel. Hershey Gardens was established in 1936 upon instructions of Mr. Hershey that "a nice garden of roses" be planted within walking distance of the newly completed hotel.
In January 2001, The Spa At The Hotel Hershey opened with signature chocolate treatments such as the Whipped Cocoa Bath and Chocolate Fondue Wrap. The 17,000 square-foot retreat has since expanded to 40,000 square feet overlooking the Hotel's formal gardens and reflecting pools. The exterior architecture mirrors the original historic hotel in style and color, and the interior décor was inspired by High Point Mansion, the home of Mr. Hershey and his wife.
In 2009, The Hotel Hershey unveiled its Grand Expansion, a $67 million project including the introduction of 10 Woodside Cottages that house the Hotel's most premium guest accommodations, a new farm-to-table restaurant called Harvest, a lineup of boutique shops, a recreation campus featuring an outdoor pool complex, and more.
Awards and Celebrations
The Hotel Hershey is a longtime recipient of the AAA Four-Diamond Award and Forbes Four-Star Award. A member of Historic Hotels of America, The Hotel Hershey has also received the organization's Best Historic Resort Award of Excellence. Among other awards, The Hotel Hershey has earned a gold badge in U.S. News & World Report's Best Hotels rankings.
The Hotel Hershey Today
Today, with 276 guest rooms and suites and 25,000 square feet of meeting space, the Hotel can accommodate groups from 10 to 450 throughout 21 function rooms. Both the Garden Terrace Ballroom and the Castilian Room offer dramatic views of the majestic formal gardens and surrounding countryside. A large terrace off the Castilian Room and an expansive veranda overlooking the town are popular sites for meeting breaks, cocktail parties, and weddings.
Three full-service restaurants provide varied dining choices. The Hotel's flagship restaurant, The Circular, features the fresh, new flavors of an iconic American dining experience, reimagined. Trevi 5 offers a fresh, authentically modern Italian dining experience with a contemporary twist on traditional Italian cuisine. Harvest serves a fresh take on American cuisine inspired by local and regional ingredients. Additional dining offerings include a cocktail lounge, all-day cafe and seasonal poolside cafe.
The Spa At The Hotel Hershey, affectionately known as the Chocolate Spa, continues to welcome guests to indulge in total luxury with signature chocolate treatments, as well as traditional spa treatments and services that pay homage to Cuba, where Mr. Hershey owned sugar mills from 1916 to 1946. Guests can also enjoy amenities and recreation, including a fitness center, indoor and outdoor pool complexes, outdoor recreation complex, an 18-hole putting course, disc golf, Falconry, hiking trails, resort activities like chocolate bingo and Hershey Character appearances, and more.
As an Official Resort of Hersheypark, all guests of The Hotel Hershey also receive FREE Resort Benefits, including the best price on Hersheypark amusement park tickets, complimentary shuttle service to and from the Park and extra hours at the Park. Additional perks include complimentary admission to Hershey Gardens and The Hershey Story's Museum Experience and access to two award-winning golf courses at Hershey Country Club.
The Hotel Hershey continues to build upon a dream that Milton Hershey realized in 1933 and is dedicated to preserving his legacy. At our one-of-a-kind destination, guests can expect to leave with sweet chocolate-filled memories that can only be made at The Hotel Hershey.
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