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.”

Abandoned Hershey Factory PA
Hershey Factory PA Photo by Abandoned America

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 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.

Abandoned Hershey Factory
Abandoned Hershey Chocolate Factory Photo by Abandoned America

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.

Abandoned Hershey Factory Photo by Abandoned America

Controversy surrounded Hershey in 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.

Abandoned Hershey Factory

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 workspaces after a $90 million dollar repurposing and renovation project in 2015.


Photo Credit: Penn Live

All other photographs courtesy of Abandoned America.

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39 thoughts on “Demolition and The Chocolate Factory: Hershey, PA”

  1. Tonya

    I know we can’t save every building but doesn’t make it any less sad. I don’t know who said it first but my mother would tell me when I was young, you can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you came from. Feels like generations to come will not know where they came from. Dramatic, maybe. True, definitely.

  2. Colleen Hyser

    About 18 years ago I worked in a nursing home in central Pa not far from Hershey. There was a lady that lived there, I believe she was 85 and she worked at the plant and always her and her husband also worked at the Home/School for Orphaned Boys. One day I was talking to her about her job there and she looked at me very serious and said “you know what some of the ladies that worked there would do?” I said “no” she said “they would take the kisses as they came down the belt and stick them in their pockets and stole them.” She was still horrified so many years later.

  3. Peggy Lake

    Most assuredly these old historic buildings will be missed. I recall the wonderful time we had in Hershey, Pa.
    The most upsetting is seeing the loss of N. American jobs going to Mexica. This is disturbing to me as well as millions of Americans seeing another giant company giving our jobs away.

    1. peter

      I don’t like it, but will you like moved to ” China ” because corporate America , what profits. and big bounses, tax write offs, for making more job on other lands and less pay. No benfits. IT’S ALBOUT PROFITS. Wal-mart have job here and pay less.

  4. Warren Miller

    I grew up in northwestern new jersey. In Hackettstown. Home of m&ms. My wife worked in m&ms. Well we been to Hershey many times. Really sad to see it go. Its definatly an icon that should NEVER have been run down, ever. Also SHAME on Hershey for moving to Mexico and Brazil. Sometimes when you drive into Hackettstown NJ, the whole town smells like your baking brownies. I live in AZ now.

  5. Jackie Martin

    Saddened to read that even Hersley candies are now being made in Mexico doesn’t our country mean more than money !

  6. Molly Ferster

    Coincidentally, I drove past the site of the factory while doing errands today. At the time, I happened to be on the phone with my husband and told him that I was stopped at A crosswalk used by hoards of chocolate factory workers who used to scurry by during shift changes. I can still picture the uniforms and white nets over their hair. My distant cousin had worked at the factory her whole life, and we would occasionally pass her while on a school field trip. I was so proud to have her wave to me!
    When it was announced that the factory would be demolished, it was as if they were throwing our childhood memories into a heap. As the official closing of the old factory neared, I was lucky to be a part of a special tour for Hershey employees. I was so thankful that my niece who worked for the Milton Hershey School had invited me. As I had imagined, t was a melancholy experience. I want you to know how grateful I was to receive an email from Mike featuring the photos taken by Matthew! Having always enjoyed photos shared by Abandoned America, I am thrilled to know the end of an era was documented.
    Thank you!

  7. Myra

    Being a native . . . What I miss is the wonderful smell of the chocolate plant . . . the one that made Hershey ‘The Sweetest Place on Earth’. Thank you for the photos.

  8. Bob

    American people should boycott all Hershey products.
    Let Hershey sell their garbage in the country there made in. I’ll never buy another Hershey product, ever!

  9. Joyce Slatner

    Thank you for sharing. We traveled to Hershey,PA about 1988 taking our boys on a bus trip to visit Arlington,Washington,And Gettysburg, ending up at Hershey. It was so much fun, of course chocolate is interesting and yummy. I hate what was done to this company, from changing the recipe, the taste, and the wrapper in the name of cheap progress. When I was young receiving a Hershey candy bar was a huge treat. I would make it last for a couple of days and once only once I found some hidden. I ate 2 and was surprised to learn they were not candy but something called Ex-lax. I was so sick and weak I had to ask my mom about the hidden candy.

  10. Doug Collier

    I have watched so many of our Nashville historic homes and business buildings being bulldozed for “progress”. Thankfully Nashville stood up several years ago and saved the Union Station. Today, the winged Mercury has been replaced, the site is a hotel, and one of the most beautiful buildings in Nashville. The will of the people has been heard. Although this happened several years ago, We must do all to save these sites. The nashbourgh fort is now is the sights of the “progressive Nashville crowd”

  11. Kevin

    You know it kills me to see all the history demolished in this country. You look at any other place in the world and they cherish their history – Italy, Spain, England, Germany to name just a few. Why are we so obsessed with moving into the future and losing where we come from? As with other countries rich in thousands of years of history compared to our triple digit years it’s makes even more sense to hold on to what we have. I’m glad to see a movement toward preserving these historic locations and at the least documenting their existence for future generations.

  12. Dennis Kostial

    Please bring our Jobs back to the good ole USA , we can make Chocolate here just as well as Mexico and Brasil ! We have plenty of vacant buildings that we can do this here .

  13. Jeff Holbert

    I dont live anywhere near Pennsylvania but I feel for the natives who have witnessed the shut down of a historic manufacturing icon. I also love the history of American ingenuity and hardworking people. It saddens me to see the manufacturing leave for countries who will never appreciate the heritage of the original company. I would think the many corporations who have gone this route would begin to see the loss of intrest in their products due to sub standard workmanship and lack of concern from their own workforce. Please save as much of our heritage as you can. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Martin Knife Chief

    Sadly…this is the same thing that happened to Jolly Rancher here in Colorado and Brachs in Chicago. Our country is poorer for the demise of these great companies of our childhood that should have stood forever as monuments to great men of vision and to the power of the United States. We are weaker in many ways than we were back when we had so many strong, vital companies, with so many workers relying on these jobs. When we outsource these jobs, we tear apart the fabric of our communities and ruin lives, many who had careers, not just jobs. This is America and we should value more than just bottom line profits.

  15. Valerie Hamilton

    I see the death of the American Dream when I look at these photos: the reality that i grew up with, that my father grew up with, that my grandfather came to America from Russia for, is dying, and I don’t know how we can survive it. This is the reason I collect rusty junk, why I’m union and why I teach my children about things like the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire.

  16. Betsy

    We took our kids there during the spirit of 1976 on the 4th of July. Wonderful memories. How sad that we are erasing our heritage and sending our jobs overseas. I hope and pray that we can turn these issues around. Its not just our chocolate factories but our furniture manufactories, textiles, cars the list goes on and on. We need to make America great again and give our kids and grandkids a future to be proud of. We need a government that will turn this around so that we have jobs and be assured that we are safe. Please keep this in mind when you cast your votes. Its a Privilege and an Honor use it wisely!!!

  17. charles mcgee

    Having been to Hershey several times to hear that the known factory in the town being taken down is truly said and another sign of corporate greed, that building had tours going through it when I was there in 2007,08,09. And to allow this national treasure to be lost is the worst possible thing that could happen in Pennsylvania since the introduction of automated toll booths ( you’ll love that )

  18. Babs

    Such a shame.
    My dad was a mechanic for Hershey for 30 years. They used to have their own fleet of trucks (18-wheelers and milk trucks), and my dad was one of the guys who kept them running.
    On a few occasions when I was a kid, I got to go in to the garage at the plant with my dad. The was an old Frigidaire in their break area – they kept broken pieces of chocolate in the crisper drawer, and I’d get to have a piece.

  19. yael

    I didn’t know any of this! Hershey’s is Americana! Look, it’s not the best chocolate in the world, but it’s still delicious. I went there to Hersheys around the time of the first Gulf War. Hershey’s was making chocolate bars for the soldiers that wouldn’t melt in the middle eastern sun. How awesome and patriotic.

  20. Mae Rall

    The same thing was done in my home town of Omaha Ne. though more on a mid-west scale. We had an amusement park by the name of Peony Park which I believe started out in the 30’s-40’s with a outdoor ballroom and progressed from there to an amusement park and a swimming pool with fountains and sand like a beach. I was still going there with my family up until the early 80’s then we moved to another state. I went back for a wedding this summer and the whole thing was gone of course. A big supermarket and strip mall replaced it. Still it made me so sad as I spent every summer I could there. The pool was something you don’t ever see. It really was a beautiful place.

  21. Shirley McGowan

    I have lived all of my life in Lebanon county which is right next to Hershey. It is odd not smell the chocolate when you get into town. The company does lean on the legacy of the children’s school. Maybe someday people will do a documentary on the children’s school.

  22. Tim White

    Moving the operations offshore was sad. Same thing happened almost as many years ago to Levi’s here in San Francisco. This is why we have a steadily vanishing middle class…all for the sake of corporate profits and greed.

  23. John Tuinenga

    That’s kind of the way I feel about Cuckoo Clocks, there are some really good ones out there just sitting in a box in the attic and will just be discarded some day like all the other trash. The older the clock the better the clock, they just don’t make them like they used to. I have a wood movement cuckoo clock that is as old as the Hershey plant and it’s at least still in operation. It a shame to see what has happen and is happening to our past.

  24. Karen

    Another one bites the dust. So sad. 800 jobs lost to Mexico. Milton Hershey must be rolling over in his grave. The new Hershey management team should be ashamed of themselves.

  25. Zach Sagurs

    Wow, and how very sad to see. My Parents, Aunt and Uncle, Cousins and I visited the Hersey Chocolate Factory in the 70’s, and I can still remember the lovely smell of the chocolate, and amazed how they made the chocolate bars. As someone said earlier; how people will forget their culture, heritage, and where they came from if places of interest are lost within our communities globally.

    Thankfully though there are folks and Associations who are interested in trying to preserve as much as possible of our past. Only recently; as I have many times over in my own country, tried to rally people together to preserve unique machinery, etc. that I am hearing more of “lets preserve it in our minds with photos.” If we approached every preservation like this; we will no longer be able to feel, touch or be in awe of great feats of architecture and design.

  26. Sarah

    I actually work in this building, the Hershey company really did an amazing job bringing pieces from the original factory in instead of buying ridiculous and meaningless art. It’s absolutely beautiful how they’ve managed to pay respect to what was and enable what will be.

    Milton would be proud.

  27. Fred Klosreman

    Great article & so true! It’s pathetic that corporate America is so into profit that they prefer to put too much money in their own pockets and contribute to unemployment and lower wages here in America! What’s wrong with paying a high wage for an honest day’s work? No more Hershey for me! I was born in York, PA. & live in AZ. I hope the same doesn’t happen to the motorcycle plant there! Could you imagine? I can’t

  28. Rick Becker

    I grew up a few miles from Hershey and still can remember the smell of chocolate on windy days when we played outside. We had many field trips to the factory and were allowed to walk right by the vats of chocolate and peanut butter and see how everything was made. I will surely miss that beautiful buildings but they can’t take away my memories! Thanks for the pics.

  29. Marilyn Ott

    I toured the factory many years ago. The best part of the tour was when we passed the bins of broken chocolate and the tour guide told us we could take as much as we wanted. I filled up every pocket and so did my mom. We had a long trip home that evening and enjoyed our free chocolate. It smelled heavenly at the factory. But I am sure that it was not a good place to work if you were a chocoholic.

  30. David Shotwell

    It is sad to see “history” being destroyed. I live in a small town, Blairstown, in northern New Jersey. It was named after John I. Blair (1802-1899), as were numerous towns throughout the Midwest. Blair was a simple man who thrived on planning and building railroads and becoming a real estate and railroad stock speculator. Because most of his work was accomplished in the mid-west (Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, etc.), he is remembered there to a greater extent than in Blairstown, NJ and numerous towns are named after him, his daughters and those who worked for him. He was president of 16 railroad companies and a director in many more. When he died at his home in Blairstown, NJ, his net worth was estimated between $70 and $100 million (1900) dollars, making him one of the wealthiest men in America. His fairly large wood frame home in Blairstown was his only home, except for his private railroad car, and was unceremoniously destroyed about 30 years ago, because it had been allowed to remain vacant for years with little to no maintenance. It is reported that John I. Blair was asked why his children had such elaborate mansions and he lived in a rather simple home. His response was that they had a very rich father and he did not.

  31. Charles Ejike

    As fascinating as the idolatry of obsolete industrial buildings is, it must never be forgotten that not everybody has been positively touched by the Hershey Company, or its predecessor, Hershey Foods.

  32. Jay

    Matthew could spend the rest of his career in Pennsylvania. There is a reason the current Netflix series “American Rust” is filmed here, as well as the movie “The Road”, apocalyptic comes to mind, particularly Western PA. History is abandoned and replaced by trailer homes.

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