Abandoned: The Original Hershey Chocolate Factory, Hershey, PA
People have long been intrigued by buildings and places that have fallen to modern times… be it by construction, financial problems, or urban takeover. Places are a part of people, and once they’re gone, a part of us leaves with them. Forever.
One of our favorite photographers, Matthew Christopher of Abandoned America, has been professionally photographing these quickly vanishing places for ten years. What started as a hobby is now a full time expedition. Christopher documents these places before they are completely out of the landscape… and sometimes while the demolition is happening around him. Documenting these sites can be a very personal project. He adds, “I think what I’ve learned is how deeply meaningful these places are to people, and how important our history is to communities and individuals. Abandoned places aren’t just eyesores or blight, they’re part of people’s identities.”
For Matthew, one of the most personal places he photographed is the Hershey Chocolate Factory in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He says, “On a personal level it was possibly the most difficult place I’ve photographed the erasure of. No matter how you feel about the shifts in production means and location or whether the demolition of the plant was necessary or not, it marked the end of an era for the company itself, the town, and Hershey’s legacy. When I photographed it, I wasn’t there to create some political polemic, I was there to say goodbye.”
A little back story on Hershey: After selling his caramel business in Lancaster, Milton Hershey began constructing the original Hershey Chocolate Factory in 1903 in Derry Church, Pennsylvania, a town that would later would later be named Hershey after him
Despite financial hardships, Hershey was dedicated to improving the lives of workers. He created several neighborhood attractions including Hershey Park, Hershey Gardens, the Hershey Theater, and the Hershey Museum for his employees and their families to enjoy. Some of these places are still functioning today.
In the continuing years, Hershey grew in size as did their campus – adding many sprawling buildings to the complex. Hershey passed away in 1945, leaving the Milton Hershey School Trust with a controlling interest in the Hershey Company which included Chocolate World and Hershey Entertainment and Resorts.
Controversy surrounded Hershey in near recent years, one being a lawsuit over calling the candy “milk chocolate” when vegetable oils replaced cocoa butter, and milk substitutes were used. By far the most detrimental was the closure of the Smith Falls and Oakdale plants in 2008 to move production to new facilities in Monterey, Mexico and another production facility in Brazil.
The original factory in Hershey was closed in 2012 to move production to a newly expanded West Hershey plant, where Hershey Kisses and other products are still manufactured. According to a Pennlive article, “In recent years, Hershey has shifted production to Mexico and carried out a global restructuring that eliminated about 1,500 North American jobs, including about 800 in the midstate.” Demolition began on the original factory in 2013. Parts of the existing factory have recently been revitalized and turned into modern work spaces after a $90 million dollar repurposing and renovation project in 2015.
Photo Credit: Penn Live
All other photographs courtesy of Abandoned America.