Chocolate Crossroads: Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues, Southwest Corner
In early 2011 construction began a two year project to straighten the intersection of Cocoa and Chocolate Avenues and build a new bridge over the railroad tracks.
As much as we talk about how Hershey has changed since Milton Hershey’s death in 1945, changes to Hershey’s physical landscape were also part of the community during his lifetime. This was particularly true for the intersection of Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues.
Chocolate Avenue, Hershey’s main street, was the new name given to the Berks and Dauphin County Turnpike, a well established 19th century road that linked Lebanon and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The four corners created by the intersection of Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues formed the town center.
As Milton Hershey developed his vision of a model town, he often started small and then expanded his ideas as demand increased.
All communities need a store. The first Hershey-operated store opened in 1907 in the Cocoa House. Business rapidly expanded and a new, larger facility was soon needed.
The empty lot on the southwest corner of Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues was selected and in 1910 the new store opened for business. The new building provided space for a variety of needs. While the store occupied the first floor, the second floor was used by the Hershey Inn, which offered boarding rooms to Hershey employees.
Meeting the needs of Hershey’s tourists
Needing more space, the Hershey Department Store, moved across the street to the recently vacated Hershey Press Building in 1920. The Hershey Inn’s first floor was used in a variety of ways: classrooms for Hershey’s growing student population, a photography studio, meeting space for community organizations and even a weekly farmers’ market.
As Hershey grew as a tourist destination, guest accommodations were needed. Hershey Inn was renovated to meet this need. The first floor was redesigned to include a new foyer, registration desk, newsstand, a restaurant and cafeteria. The new Hershey Inn opened in June 1926.
On the corner of Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues, Hershey Inn was in a perfect location to serve as tourist lodging. Its success led to the building being enlarged in 1936. Two stories were added, the building was faced in red brick and renamed the Community Inn.
The building was remodeled again in 1958, and all the rooms were updated with new interior decorations and the addition of television sets.
The popularity of the Cocoa Inn soon began to wane in the 1960s as guests found its non-air-conditioned rooms cramped and old fashioned. Limited parking also made it difficult to stay at the Inn.
After Hershey Motor Lodge opened in 1967, Cocoa Inn’s days were numbered. On December 29, 1970 Cocoa Inn was imploded.
The corner sat vacant for several years as the community and the Hershey Entities debated its future. In 1985 a one-story shopping center opened on the site. This business center stood in sad contrast to its architecturally elegant neighbors. Assorted proposals for the corner were considered but nothing was pursued.
Finally, in 2008 PennDOT announced plans to straighten the intersection of Route 422 (Chocolate Avenue) and Route 743, aligning Cocoa Avenue with Park Avenue. Work commenced on January 14, 2011.
The project moved Cocoa Avenue to the west, creating an opportunity for a new public space. This area, which includes the abandoned road section and the old Cocoa Inn site will be transformed into a community park honoring Milton Hershey and his vision for a model town.
While plans for this new park are not yet finalized, the new public space will serve as a tribute to Hershey’s founder.
Learn more about the other corners of the intersection: