Preserving Pennsylania: A Journey Through the Last 20 Years, Part 18

Preservation Pennsylvania has released their “Pennsylvania At-Risk: Twenty-Year Retrospective of Pennsylvania’s Endangered Historic Properties, Where Are They Now” edition. It’s a fascinating look at preservation in action and we’ll be posting a look at each property in a series of posts over the next several months.

Preservation Pennsylvania established the annual Pennsylvania At Risk list in 1992, making us the first statewide preservation organization in the United States to have an annual roster of endangered historic properties. Since 1992, we have listed and worked to preserve more than 200 endangered historic resources, including individual buildings, historic districts and thematic resources statewide. For 2012, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our organization, we are presenting a 20-year retrospective edition of Pennsylvania At Risk. In this issue, we revisit some of the amazing historic places across the Commonwealth, some of which have been rescued from extinction through preservation and rehabilitation efforts, and others that still need our help.

Approximately 18% of Pennsylvania’s At Risk properties have been lost, having been demolished or substantially altered. Another 32% have been saved or are in a condition or situation where the identified threat no longer poses a problem for the historic property. Approximately 50% of the 201 At Risk resources remain in danger, or we have not been able to confirm their current status as either saved or lost.

By monitoring these properties over the past 20 years and working with individuals and organizations trying to preserve them, we have learned many valuable lessons. Those lessons are called out throughout this publication.



2012 — Hershey Chocolate Factory, Dauphin County

Hershey Chocolate Factory

The Hershey Chocolate Factory is important as a reflection of industrial processes and buildings of its time, and reflects changing trends in manufacturing and human consumption. As the heart of the company town that developed according to Milton Hershey’s vision, the chocolate factory is central to the story of Hershey. In addition to being the economic driver that built and sustained the community of Hershey, the Hershey Chocolate Factory has long been important to visitors. The first public tours f the factory were given in 1927, and by 1972, more than 10 million people had visited the factory.

Public tours of the Hershey Chocolate Factory ceased in 1973, but hundreds of thousands of visitors still flock to Chocolate World each year to take a virtual tour of Hershey’s chocolate production.

Even though many have not been to Hershey to visit the large downtown industrial property, people across the country feel a connection to this historic building and are concerned about its preservation. As a result of changing manufacturing and economic practices, including the construction of a $300 million expansion to the company’s West Hershey facility just outside of town, the Hershey Chocolate Factory is no longer able to be used effectively for its original purpose. The numerous buildings that comprise the factory are functionally obsolete. As a result, the Hershey Company has rehabilitated the oldest remaining portions of the complex for continued use as their offices, and proposes to demolish the rest, retaining the iconic Hershey Cocoa bushes and the smoke stacks at the facility’s power plant. The physical limitations imposed by the complex historic structure, the technical challenges associated with satisfying current building codes, and modern parking requirements make it impossible for Hershey to justify the high cost of rehabilitating this large industrial complex in a busy downtown. The Hershey Company has met with developers and attempted to find a feasible new use for the factory but has been unable to do so. Demolition of the interior portions of the building has begun. For the most part, there are no regulations in place to prevent the demolition of this privately owned property using private money. Derry Township’s Design Review Board did have an opportunity to review the proposed demolition of the buildings along Chocolate Avenue and could have recommended denial of a Certificate of Appropriateness, which may have delayed demolition. However, at the end of a lengthy public meeting during which representatives of the Hershey Company explained the rationale for having to demolish the structures, the Board voted to authorize the Certificate. The Hershey Company plans to raze the remainder of the chocolate factory over the next 12 to 18 months. Preservation Pennsylvania has received unprecedented outreach from people hoping to see this factory, or at least a significant portion of it, preserved. We hope to work with the Hershey Company and others to try again to find an alternative to demolition. A rehabilitation option that preserves the features that define the historic character of the property while allowing it to change to accommodate new use may exist, if the right partners are involved in the process and the right intervention tools  are made available.