HersheyArchives@30, Part 7: To Build a Town – Step One: Houses
Visitors to Hershey today are often impressed by the community’s well-kept homes with tidy green lawns and sidewalks. Building attractive and comfortable homes for his workers was part of Milton Hershey’s vision for his model industrial town.
Most of Hershey’s residential area is located on the south side of Chocolate Avenue. The layout for these streets and lots can be seen on this 1903 map.
However, when Milton Hershey first started building his model town, the first homes were not built there.
When Milton Hershey broke ground for his chocolate factory in March 1903, he was building in the midst of farm fields and dairy pasture. He planned to build a town from scratch. Fortunately, the area that Milton Hershey selected to build his chocolate factory and model town was next to the small community of Derry Church. Though small, Derry Church included a tavern, post office, railroad station, a Presbyterian Church, a grain mill, a few small businesses and a number of houses, all located along Derry Road.
Some of Hershey’s first construction workers found lodging in Derry Church and the tavern was a popular destination after work.
Since Hershey, the town, was more of an idea than a reality in 1903, it probably made sense to build new housing for his workers adjacent to the existing town of Derry Church.
In July 1903, a piece of land located north of the future chocolate factory and adjacent to Derry Church was surveyed. Building lots for new worker homes were located on the rolling terrain. Soon ground was broken for 25 new homes. Like future residential streets that would be constructed on the south side of Chocolate Avenue, this new residential street was named Trinidad Avenue, in honor of one of the cacao growing regions in the world.
These houses were completed by the end of 1904, in time for the start-up of the chocolate factory. The Trinidad houses were built using two different floor plans and featured small front yards and porches. The repetitive designs of the houses displeased Milton Hershey. When the next houses were constructed, he made sure that the homes featured more architectural variety.
Though Milton Hershey owned other land on the north side of the railroad tracks, these were the only houses that would be built in that location. In 1905, house construction shifted to the south side of Chocolate Avenue as workers began building homes on Caracas, Granada, Cocoa and Chocolate Avenues.