Tag Archives: PA

The sweet legacy of the Hershey Story

“ . . .there is no provision for a police department, nor for a jail. Here there will be no unhappiness, then why any crime.”  Milton Hershey, 1903, on planning Hershey, PA

The Hershey Story: Museum on Chocolate Ave., Hershey, PA
The Hershey Story: Museum on Chocolate Ave., Hershey, PA

If it wasn’t for shipping costs, Hersheypark might have been built in New Orleans. In 1883, after less than a year, the struggling caramel candy entrepreneur Milton Hershey gave up on a southern location and moved back to his home state of Pennsylvania. The Hershey Story – aka the chocolate museum on, naturally, Chocolate Avenue ­– may strip any cynicism one may have concerning philanthropy.  A visit to the Hershey Story generated both awe and admiration at the tenacity and vision of a single candy maker – and his extraordinary legacy.

Gail Forbes, the Chcocolate Lab

It’s the chocolate first, though, especially milk chocolate. At the Hershey Story’s Chocolate Lab, Gail Forbes explains that chocolate (cacao) is native only to Mexico, yet Africa now produces 70% of the world’s supply. The Portuguese established cacao production in central western Africa in the 17th century. Cacao now thrives worldwide but only within a narrow band 5° north and south of the Equator.

equatorial chocolate beans

One cacao pod contains an average 30 beans and will produce enough edible chocolate for a 3-ounce bar. This enjoyable hour long hands on chocolate class resulted in the group molding individual milk chocolate bars and seasoning them with optional additions including bitter chocolate shavings, cinnamon and red pepper flakes. The Chocolate Lab has an extensive schedule of events and classes.

18th century chocolate pots, Hershey Story

The exhibits in the Hershey Story are laid out within a modern spacious interior in chronological order covering cacao and chocolate processing, the long life and career of Milton Hershey, the company, the town and his legacy. In 1903, already having segued from caramels into trendy Swiss milk chocolate, Milton Hershey moved his company from Lancaster.  Among the many reasons he purchased a vast amount of Derry Township, besides being born there, was to construct a modern assembly line factory achieving a cost reduction that would put chocolate into the hands of working class children.

Hershey Dairy

In Pennsylvania’s agricultural heartland, he created extensive dairy farms securing a controlled supply of milk. To this day, only black & white Holstein cows produce the milk that’s processed into the double condensed milk developed by Milton himself that gives Hershey’s milk chocolate its creamy texture.

Hershey Kiss street lamps in Hershey, PA

Yet another major interest for the sizable land investment was to establish a model company town. Inspired by Bourneville, the village created by England’s progressive Cadbury brothers (Cadbury chocolate), Hershey , Pennsylvania, would include housing, churches, schools, health facilities, public transit, theaters, a vast community center, a luxe hotel, an award-winning public rose garden and the ever-popular Hersheypark (1907). Like Bourneville, foresight and the company’s continued success ensured the town’s future prosperity.

Reeses display at the Hershey Story museum

Milton encouraged home ownership and private businesses, even competition. Harry Burnett Reese was a young worker at the Hershey chocolate factory when he was inspired to make candy on his own in his home’s basement. With investment from Milton Hershey himself, the peanut butter cup was born in 1928 and the H.B. Reese Candy Company thrived. The business admiration was mutual since the chocolate was procured from Hershey. Reese’s became a valuable brand for the Hershey Chocolate Company when purchased from H.B.’s heirs in 1963.

In 1909 Milton and Catherine Hershey added a unique institution to their town and their legacy when they created a perpetual endowment for the Milton Hershey School by signing over their shares – and ownership – of the Hershey Chocolate Company. Providing orphans comprehensive residential K – 12 education and training (and beyond in many cases) the Milton Hershey School continues its mission today as a model co-ed institution serving a population that’s often at risk. The Hershey Story has an extensive exhibit on the school’s enviable success.

display at museum of life at Milton Hershey School

Established in 1935, the M.S. Hershey Foundation’s mission has been to concentrate on community educational projects, The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the Hershey Gardens and The Hershey Story. Even during the Great Depression, Hershey was spared the worst. The luxurious Hotel Hershey and other company supported construction projects were completed during the 1930s. In the 21st century, Chocolate Avenue’s Hershey Kiss street lamps light a vibrant and attractive commercial center including many original buildings and cafes.

Hershey Hotel from Hershey Gardens, Hershey, PA
Hershey Hotel from Hershey Gardens, Hershey, PA

Hershey Gardens was laid out as a public space in 1935 by Milton in front of the hotel and provide a panoramic view of Hersheypark. It includes acres of original roses, a delightful children’s garden and butterfly house and an extensive arboretum with complimentary plantings. Like all things in Hershey, horticultural coordinator Brooke Umberger detailed a list of community outreach projects especially aimed at environmental education for children.

At the end of a long leisurely tour, a Countries of Origin Chocolate Tasting at The Hershey Story’s Café Zooka gives visitors the chance to sample hot drinking chocolate from a half dozen locations of the globe. This is thick rich warm chocolate like a liquid bar. From the tiny super supplier African island of Sao Thome’s earthy deep cocoa to Java’s caramel undertones and ancient Mexico’s spicy Aztec brew, chocolate has pleasured millions, but it created the means for Milton and Catherine Hershey to provide a continuing legacy of humanitarian service.

Countries of Origin Chocolate Tasting

Discloser: the author was a guest of the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau. Check their site for up-to-date event listings.

Hershey, PA, is conveniently located off the Pennsylvania Turnpike just east of Harrisburg and 95 miles west of Philadelphia. Domestic and international flights service Harrisburg International Airport and Amtrak provides national rail.

 

Please read more by Travel with Pen and Palate at…

Hellenic News of America (Travel with Pen and Palate)
Hellenic News of America (Marc d’Entremont)
Travel Pen and Palate Argentina

 

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A Social Conscience: La Mott Historic District

Philadelphia and its surrounding counties – Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware – were all part of the original land grant of Pennsylvania that William Penn received from King James II in the late 1600’s. Having alienated his famous father, Admiral Penn, by associating with that “radical religious cult,” the Society of Friends (Quakers), William took his inheritance to establish a utopia of free speech and social equality in the New World.

I grew up in historic Bucks County in the 1950/60’s when it had a population of 250,000  (over one-million in 2011) and there was so much open farmland I was always bored on a “dog-day” July afternoon because the world was so silent. It was a racially segregated society. There were some African-American families living in the county. Many worked on the large prosperous farms. My parents occasionally employed a local African-American resident (his family still lives in the area) to help around our 14-acres of (non-farm) land. He always had lunch with us, and he was always addressed as “Mr. …” – which was how we were taught to address adults. My parents were liberal Catholics. I was 11 years old when I lost my innocence concerning racial prejudice. An African-American farm-worker family enrolled their boys in our local Catholic school – the outcome was not pretty. I was shocked, horrified and puzzled at the racist reaction of my friends and their parents. The boys didn’t last long. It was the beginning, for me, of life-long realities.

In the 1860’s, Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County, consisted of large Quaker-owned farms. It became a favorite location for wealthy Colonial Philadelphians to establish country farm/estates. By the Civil War, 1860-1865, the area had attracted both the interest of wealthy investors and the Federal Army. Camp William Penn was created as the first, and only, Civil War training camp for Black soldiers. The site was deliberately chosen because, being within a Quaker community, there was less racial intolerance than within the city itself.

Lucretia Coffin Mott, born into a prominent New England Quaker family, settled in Philadelphia with her husband in the 1820’s and, with both their strong anti-slavery views, created one of the first anti-slavery societies in the country – as well as being a leader in women’s rights (Seneca Falls) and many other social issues. Her son-in-law, Edward M. Davis, was a wealthy Quaker who had a vast farm/estate in Cheltenham Township which she and her husband often retreated to when their home on 3rd. & Arch in the city became too frenetic. After the Civil War, Cheltenham became the focus of intense real estate development among wealthy Philadelphians – many non-Quakers: P.A.B. Widener,  William Luken Elkins, John Wanamaker. With Quaker influence, a unique development formed.

La Mott Historic District, (bottom left) AME Church 1911 (replaced original 1888 structure)

As these wealthy families built their own vast estates and developed such exclusive communities as Wyncote, Glenside and Elkins Park, the influence of the Davis and Mott families encouraged these non-Quaker millionaires to act with a social conscience. Davis and Mott set aside land from their estate for African-American families – many were workers on neighboring estates – to rent and own their own dwellings. In the 1890’s one of the first home owners was the butler to Mr. William Elkins. Architecturally, there is nothing interesting about La Mott. The houses are classic working class bungalows, row houses and twins that are found in all Northeast coast cities. Yet it’s the reality that such a neighborhood existed at all with the opportunity of home ownership in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that is remarkable.

Of course, African-American’s were still segregated, and employers were the wealthy white residents of the Township. Right next door to La Mott, separated by an enclosed iron gate, is the still exclusive Latham Park in Elkins Park. This mile-long private boulevard is lined with spectacular examples of upper-class architecture of the early 1900’s, including a stunning mid-century modern (1972) currently on the market for $625,000.

Latham Park, (bottom right) mid-century modern $625,000

Even given the obvious racial/class differentiation of the past – although today more than one Black family owns a Latham Park house –  La Mott Historic District represents a seminal social shift in American racial attitudes and is a prized symbol among Philadelphia’s Black community.

Where to get your goat…

…and your heirloom tomatoes?  In Jenkintown, of course. Now Jenkintown, (Montgomery County, PA) hasn’t been home to a farm in a century, and when I moved here in 1984, a rather small Acme pretty much was it for food supplies. The world for foodies has changed considerably starting in the mid-1990’s. Zagara (short-lived but exciting while it lasted), Whole Foods, Produce Junction, Trader Joes, Peas in a Pod, and the Acme, are all within walking distance or short drives from anywhere in Jenkintown.          

The farms of Philadelphia’s surrounding counties – Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, Lancaster and Berks – are historically famous for their products. Yet in this age of diet-by-frozen-foods, we forget that there are places within less than an hour’s drive where leg of goat (grass-fed) is available, as well as drop cherries, raw honey and Thai eggplant.              

Thai eggplant, heirloom tomatoes & carrots

 

This June, Jenkintown inaugurated a weekly Wednesday Farmers Market in the Town Square from 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM. For a variety of reasons, today was the first time I had a chance to check it out. I walked the less than 10 minutes from my house not necessarily with high expectations that I’d discover anything different from the normal stands of fresh, small-farm produce I’ve come to expect.           

It’s nice to be surprised in your own backyard. Three sizable stands of produce were brimming not only with the normal assortment. Herrcastle Farms (Holtwood, PA, Lancaster County) has an impressive display of heirloom tomatoes and the unusual drop cherry – beautiful yellow color and crisp texture. Tall Pine Farms’ (Rushland, PA, Bucks County) table caught my eye with a half-dozen eggplant varieties, including the crisp, tennis ball sized Thai eggplant that’s great in curry and stir-fry. Farmer Thad of Jett’s Produce (Telford, PA, Montgomery/Bucks County) prominently displays a sign “We grow chemical free.” Isn’t that organic? To Farmer Thad, it’s “organic” minus the bureaucracy, paperwork and high fees to be FDA organic certified. Herrcastle and Tall Pines, as well as many small farms I know in Pennsylvania, agree.             

Drop cherries

 

Not all is produce. In the center of the square at least six long tables were overflowing with cinnamon rolls, muffins, carrot cake, decorated cookies and at least a dozen savory breads including a still warm loaf of Olive Rosemary bread. This carb heaven is the work of Tabora Farm and Orchard (Hilltown, PA, Bucks County). It seems Tabora’s still a farm and orchard with a bakery that produces 160 different baked items per day!              

Tabora Farm's baked products

 

A small stand displayed raw honey, including my favorite, Buckwheat Honey. The product of Everich Honey Farm (Cedars, PA, Montgomery County), I had an informative conversation on the still real threat of Colony Collapse Disorder and the possible ties to the over use of chemicals in American farming. Coffee is in the mix as well with One Village Coffee (Souderton, PA, Bucks County) a company that takes corporate “fairshare” seriously, funding farming projects in third world coffee growing areas. A Little Taste of Tennessee (Jenkintown, PA, Montgomery County) started in April by Pat Walton, a Tennessee native is a new catering business and weekend restaurant in Jenkintown featuring the country foods of that state. At the market, they were offering Ms Ethel’s and Aunt Weeze’s nut brittle and a variety of fresh, crisp pickles – the Bread and Butter nicely under sweetened. Varieties with jalapeño peppers would probably burn my tongue off.          

Two craft stands are in the mix – one selling hand bags made with recycled material, and another table of handmade “Jewelry From a Writer, for Word Lovers” from Words at Play (Elkins Park, PA, Montgomery County). Janet Falon, a writer, creates necklaces and bracelets built with word blocks so the wearer can create a message.          

What really caught my eye, shortly after I arrived at the Market, was a mobile kitchen parked at the edge of the Square. Thinking it was a misplaced Philly Steak and hotdog stand, I finally walked up to the M & B Farview Farm (Hamburg, PA, Berks County) mobile unit to discover a refrigerated/freezer trailer selling grass-fed beef, veal, lamb, goat and pork. With a 142 acre farm (soon to grow to over 200 acres) M & B, from looking at their order form, utilizes every part of an animal offering kidneys, hotdogs, sausages as well as a full line of cheeses from both cow and goat milk. M & B’s ranching techniques would make both an American Indian and an Argentine Gaucho proud!           

Prices at the market are comparable to Whole Foods or anyplace selling premium products, but now you know where they’re coming from – your own backyard.           

           

  Herrcastle Farms, 198-A Douts Hill Road, Holtwood, PA 17532, www.herrcastlefarm.com          

Tall Pine Farms, 1046 Swamp Road, Rushland, PA 18956           

Jett’s Produce, 87 Ridge Road, Telford, PA 18969, www.facebook.com/JettsProduce           

Tabora Farm and Orchard, 1104 Upper Stump Road, Hilltown, PA, www.taborafarmandorchard.com/store/           

Everich Honey Farm, Cedars, PA 19446, (215-565-6422)           

 One Village Coffee,18 Cassel Road. Souderton PA 18964           

A Little Taste of Tennessee, 307 Old York Road,  Jenkintown, PA 19046 (215-432-8028 or 215-906-3903)            

Words at Play, Elkins Park, PA, 19027  (215-635-1698)           

 M & B Farview Farm, 229 Farview Road, Hamburg, PA