History of Hersheypark
The history of Hersheypark begins with the founding of the town of Hershey in 1903. The owner of the Hershey Chocolate Company surveyed a nearby area of land, which was to become a leisure park for the employees of his chocolate company. People began visiting the grounds of the future park in 1904 and 1905, while the park's first pavilion was built in the fall of 1905. The park was formally opened on May 30, 1906, when the park opened as Hershey Park. The park slowly added rides until 1923, when the first roller coaster, Wild Cat, was built. From then on, rides were regularly added, except during World War II. The park was redeveloped into Hersheypark in 1970, through a multi-phase project. Since then, the park has added ten roller coasters, expanded to over 110 acres, and features many other attractions including shows with sea lions, well-known acts including Weird Al Yankovic and Duff Goldman from Charm City Cakes in the Hersheypark Amphitheater, and a short-lived laser light show.
- 1 1906-1970: Hershey Park
- 2 1971 to present day: Hersheypark
- 3 Former attractions
- 4 References
1906-1970: Hershey Park
1906-1946: The early years
Milton Hershey began developing Hershey Park for his model town in 1904, while the chocolate factory was being built. The original park was a simple nature park featuring Spring Creek, gorgeous landscaped gardens, and many walking paths for his citizens. He also added a structure for entertainment like dancing and roller skating, and helped institute a community band to perform there. The family-oriented Park included children’s playgrounds, picnic pavilions, and baseball and athletic fields added in 1905. Spring Creek soon became a scenic boating lake. The Park was a beautiful place in nature for all to enjoy, and even had impressive nighttime lighting. Hershey, PA’s growth and increased visitors to the town instilled a need for the Park to evolve into an amusement park. A trolley was instituted in the place, as well as the Park’s first ride in 1908: a used carrousel and band organ, and an amphitheater followed in 1909. Soon, the park began expanding each year. The carrousel, bandstand, and restaurant were enlarged in 1912, and a Convention Hall followed three years later. The very first rollercoaster, Wildcat, was introduced for the 20th anniversary, and the amusement park fad in the 1920s added a bumper cars ride and the Mill Chute water flume. After this period, although the Great Depression cast its shadow on the Park, more new attractions and the Hershey Arena and Stadium were added. By 1939 it was called “Pennsylvania’s Summer Playground”. World War II forced Hershey Park to close some rides and less people came to visit, but after the war, the second rollercoaster, Comet, opened in 1946.
1923: The Wild Cat
To celebrate the town of Hershey's twentieth anniversary, Milton Hershey ordered a roller coaster from the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC). Hershey chose not to purchase the roller coaster, but rented the land that the ride was built on to PTC. The ride opened on June 23, 1923, as The Joy Ride. It was changed to Wild Cat several years later and operated through the 1945 season when it torn down and replaced by The Comet.
1924 - 1945: To the end of an era
A small Ferris wheel and the Airplane Swing were the first two kiddie rides added to the park, both in 1926. The Skooter were added to the park during the 1920s. In 1929, a complex of four swimming pools was added, and the original pool was drained. Because that space was opened up, the old bath house was converted into a funhouse (later called Whoops) and The Mill Chute was installed. Despite the Great Depression, Hershey Park flourished. In 1931, the park's first dark ride, The Pretzel, was opened. In 1933, a penny arcade and a circular ride called The Bug, were installed. A petting zoo soon followed. Renovations were made to the Wild Cat roller coaster in 1935 to build up the dips and to more steeply bank the curves.
The 1937 season saw the addition of a Mangel's whip, which was called The Whipperoo. In 1941, Hershey Park bought a ride from the New York World's Fair, which was an instant success when it opened. They called it the Aerial Joy Ride, and it marked the last ride the park added until 1945. Due to the United States entrance into World War II, and the subsequent war rationing, the park was prohibited from adding new rides or attractions. The Hershey Park Zoo shut down in 1942 as a result of the war as well (and it did not reopen until 1950).
In 1943, Hershey Park remained closed for almost the entire season due to the gas shortages related to the war. This was the first time the park hadn't been open on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. The park remained closed until September 18, when it opened with a show in the Hershey Park Ballroom starring musician Bobby Sherwood. It was the last time the park hadn't been open on either holiday.
However, the park was able to maintain the rides it had, so they remained in relatively good condition. However, the Wild Cat was declining throughout the period, and once the war ended, Hershey began to look for the next roller coaster. In the 1944 season, the park reached an agreement to purchase a used carousel built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) in 1919. (It still operates in the park today, with music from a 1926 Wurlitzer model #153 Military Band Organ.) The carousel was the last ride Milton Hershey purchased and saw in operation as he died that year. However, he had reached an agreement with PTC to build a new roller coaster to replace The Wild Cat for the 1946 season. It would be the largest roller coaster in the nation.
1946 - 1955: Post Milton Hershey, World War II growth
In 1946 the wooden roller coaster The Comet replaced The Wild Cat. It was Milton Hershey's last purchased ride before he died. In 1949, the park added a new section to the park, called Kiddieland. Kiddieland featured 7 kiddie rides, including two new ones: a Kiddie Horse and Buggy ride and a Lucas Motor Boat ride. Twin 66-foot (20 m)-high Ferris wheels were added the following season in 1950. In 1952, the park added a kiddie ride called Miniature Train. The ride still operates in the park, as of 2011. After a few seasons of not adding rides, a kiddie Turnpike was added in 1955.
1956-1970: The decline of the park, despite new rides
Despite the growth of the park following World War II, it began to slow down after the addition of the kiddie Turnpike. From 1956 until 1960, Hersheypark did not add any rides. The first new ride was the Turnpike, added in 1960. The Dry Gulch Railroad was added a season later in 1961, a compliment to the 50 year old Miniature Railroad. The former featured a live steam powered 4-4-0 locomotive, named "Meridia", built for the park by Crown Metal Products. In 1962, the park replaced the Aerial Joy Ride with Starship America, which is still in the park as of 2011. In 1964, the park added a kiddie ride, Wells Cargo, and a thrill ride, Flying Coaster, located near the main entrance of the park. In 1965, the park added a number of kiddie rides to Kiddieland, including Dizzy Drums, Traffic Jam, Helicopters and Space Age. Skyview and Tip-Top (later removed in 1980) were installed in 1966. The Monorail was added in 1969. In 1970, the Rotor was added.
Despite the investment in the park, there was an overall decline in it. There were fewer people to pick up trash, and attractions were subject to vandalism since there wasn't a gate around the park. The park got to the point that it was facing one of two options: reinventing itself or close.
They chose to reinvent the park.
1971 to present day: Hersheypark
1971: Gating the park
A five-year redevelopment plan was started in 1971 to convert the regional amusement park Hershey Park into a large theme park called Hersheypark, as it is known to this day. This five-phase project was orchestrated by Randall Duell. The park was gated in 1971, and a one-price admission plan was started, which coexisted with a pay-as-you-ride general admission policy. The initial price for the one-price admission plan was $3.50 for "adults" (ages 12 and up), or $1.75 for "juniors" (ages 5–11). Children ages 4 and under entered for free. The general admission plan charged "adults" $1.00 to get through the gate, "juniors", $.50, while children ages 4 and under were free. This plan allowed people to enjoy live entertainment and any non-ride facility; if they wanted to ride rides, they had to purchase tickets just like any season prior. This was the only season the park had the general admission plan.
Another significant change to the park was the main entrance. Since 1907, it had been located at the intersection of Park Boulevard and Park Avenue. For the 1971 season, there were five entrances to the park. They were located at: Main entrance of Hersheypark Arena, near where the current (as of 2012) entrance of the park is, the athletic field (near Founder's Circle as of 2012), the Miniature Railroad and across from the old Hershey Park Zoo (both in locations where Twin Turnpike stands as of 2012).
1972: Phase I
In 1972, the first phase of redevelopment was completed. This included the addition or relocation of a number of rides. Three new areas were constructed: Carrousel Circle, Der Deitsch Platz (The Pennsylvania Dutch Place) and the Animal Gardens. Der Deitsch Platz featured a Pennsylvania Dutch theme while the Animal Gardens was a petting zoo and replaced the old Hershey Park Zoo. Neither of these areas included any rides.
Carrousel Circle built to the west of Der Deitsch Platz and between Hersheypark Arena and the Comet, which had been the site of a baseball field dating back to 1905, featured several new rides and a mixture of kiddie rides and adult rides. The Carrousel which had be sitting along Spring Creek in Comet Hollow was moved to the center of the circle, and rides were built around it. Three rides were relocated from the old kiddieland area: Space Age, Helicopters and Traffic Jam (then known as Motorcycles). Two new small rides were purchased: Scrambler and Monster. The biggest ride was Hersheypark's second roller coaster (third built, overall): Toboggan. (Toboggan was later removed following the 1977 season.) These rides were placed next to Comet, in the area of where the grandstands had been. The opposite side, closest to Hersheypark Arena, remained undeveloped.
At the start of the season, Hersheypark announced the five phase plan to the public, which was published in a special section of the Patriot News on Sunday, May 7, 1972. A number of themed areas were planned throughout the course of the project. Some would come to fruition while others would not. Projects that didn't happen were the result of natural disasters and the gas crises of the 1970s. However, other things were announced, including that the parking area more than doubled in size and that the park was starting a "sunset savings plan" where you could save one dollar off the price if you entered the park after 6pm.
During the 1972 season, the park experienced a flood resulting from the rains of Hurricane Agnes. Until the Tropical Storm Lee flood in 2011, it was the worst flood the park experienced. A number of rides were severely damaged, including the park's first log flume, the Mill Chute, and the park's slides Magic Carpet Slide, which never reopened. Both rides were often mentioned in advertising and were planned to be relocated or kept for the future. It resulted in a change of focus in where to put rides in the redevelopment, as well. One plan that was altered related to the Kissing Tower. The Kissing Tower was planned to be built in the Hollow area of the park for the 1974 season. Due to the flood, it was delayed until 1975 and built on the highest spot in the park.
1973: Phase II
Phase 3 of construction included building themed areas Tudor Square and Rhineland, divided by the permanent main gate of the park. Coinciding with that project was Hershey Chocolate Company's plans to build Chocolate World near the park's new main gate. Both Phase 3 and Chocolate World opened in 1973. As a result of Phase 3 plans, it was decided that the section of Derry Avenue between Park Boulevard and Park Avenue should be closed, and Park Boulevard redirected, as well. This decision was made as part of the park's expansion plans, as well as the incoming Chocolate World.
Coal Cracker opened in 1973, replacing the Mill Chute. It was built by Arrow Development Corporation, and was the first hydroflume ride. Also new for 1973, the Sky Ride. Designed as a transport ride, one station was located in Rhineland, while the other station was located behind the penny arcade, next to Coal Cracker.
1974 - 1977: Phases III, IV, V
Trailblazer, the park's third roller coaster, fourth ever built, opened in 1974. Because of its addition, the Turnpike in Comet Hollow was truncated in size. However, it was the ride's last season in the park, because in 1975, it was replaced by the Twin Turnpike. The Twin Turnpike featured a middle guide rail, which reduced damage to the cars. The main focus of the area where the Twin Turnpike was built was the Kissing Tower, a 330 foot tall tower. Himalaya was also added in 1975, which replaced the old Twin Ferris Wheels. But, Himalaya only operated there through the 1976 season, when it was moved near the Twin Turnpike, which it replaced the old Whipperoo. The ride that was built where Himalaya was, it was the first steel looping roller coaster on the East Coast: sooperdooperLooper, opened on July 4, 1977. That marked the end of the redevelopment project in the park, and the next major ride wouldn't be added for 10 years.
1978-1986: Redevelopment complete
After the addition of sooperdooperLooper in 1977, the growth of the park began to slow down. Old rides continued to be removed and replaced with new ones, however. In 1978, the old Golden Nugget building, which featured a shooting gallery after the ride was removed, was torn down and replaced by the new auto skooter building and ride, the Fender Bender. Because of the larger size of the building, several neighboring rides were also removed. In 1980, Pirate and Cyclops were installed in an expanded section of the park. It was first expansion of the park gate, as Derry Road was being shut down so the park could expand in that direction. In 1982, the classic ride The Bug, one of the earliest rides installed in the park, was replaced by the Wave Swinger. Several kiddie rides were installed as well, such as the Swing Thing in 1984. The park also expanded further north in 1984, into a new themed section: Pioneer Frontier. The first two rides in this area was Conestoga and Timber Rattler. Dry Gulch Railroad was expanded, with an additional 1000 feet of track, and its engine, "Meridia", which had developed boiler problems, was replaced with a new, similar steam engine named "Skooter" built by the same company. However, in 1985 and 1986, the park did not install any rides, because Hershey Entertainment & Resorts chose to invest in hotel properties. However, those investments immediately did not do well, which caused no rides to be installed those two years.
Following the 1986 season, the park was to kick off its biggest new ride since sooperdooperLooper, and the first of many new big rides to come to the park, unlike any other era in its history.
1987-1999: Rapid expansion
Once Hershey Entertainment & Resorts got the hotel investments behind them, they were able to focus on investing in the park. A new themed area was opened, marking the first significant expansion of the park's foot print: Pioneer Frontier. Canyon River Rapids was built and added in 1987 (replaced by Intercoastal Waterway and The Shore wave pool in 2009). Western Chute-Out was added in 1988, a set of water slides.
The 1990s started off with the creation of Minetown. The old penny arcade was replaced by a massive three-story building, housing the Minetown Arcade, Minetown Restaurant, and games. The Flying Falcon replaced Himalaya, and three kiddie rides replaced the Coal Shaker. Four roller coasters were added to Hersheypark in the 1990s. The Dry Gulch Railroad received a second steam engine, named "Janelle", to complement "Skooter", the former had a similar appearance, but was slightly larger and more powerful than the latter. Sidewinder, a Vekoma Boomerang coaster, was added in 1991. In 1996, the wooden coaster The Wildcat was added and was named after The Wild Cat that previously operated from 1923 to 1946. The Great Bear opened in 1998, the park's most expensive single ride to date. Wild Mouse opened in 1999. Several rides were also added during this decade. In 1994 the water plunge ride Tidal Force opened. A Ferris wheel and Whip ride were added in 1997. Four other new rides were added in 1999. These include the Merry Derry Dip fun slide, Music Express, Chaos (since removed), and the Frog Hopper.
The year 2000 brought the biggest roller coaster of Midway America - Lightning Racer. Hersheypark's first roller coaster of the 21st Century was Roller Soaker, in 2002, which completed Midway America. A 65-foot (20 m) spinning pendulum ride called The Claw was added in 2003. Another roller coaster was added in 2004: Storm Runner, Hersheypark's 10th and tallest (at 180-foot (55 m) feet maximum height), until Skyrush was built in 2012. In 2005, Giant Wheel was removed and replaced by two classic rides—Balloon Flite and Starship America. Carrousel Circle, the first of the 1970s renovations of Hershey Park (now renamed Hersheypark), was remodeled into Founder's Circle in honor of original founder Milton S. Hershey. In 2006, Hersheypark introduced the Reese's Xtreme Cup Challenge, the first interactive dark ride to have two cars compete against each other.
2007-2011: Finally, A Waterpark!
In 2007, Hersheypark celebrated its 100th anniversary. A fireworks show occurred every weekend, and as another aspect of the celebrations, Hersheypark opened The Boardwalk at Hersheypark, a water park and themed area. The area filled in the remaining grass area of Midway America. East Coast Waterworks, a water play area, Coastline Plunge, four water slides, a FlowRider called Waverider, a kiddie wave pool called Bayside Pier, and Sandcastle Cove, a kiddie water play area were opened. Roller Soaker and Tidal Force were included in the new themed area, as well as Canyon River Rapids, which would be removed following the 2008 season. With the opening of the Boardwalk, the Canyon River Rapids and Tidal Force queues had their entrances and exits rerouted.
Following the 2007 season, the Western Chute-Out water slides were removed, as Coastline Plunge had effectively replaced them that season. In Chute-Out's place, Fahrenheit, Hersheypark's 11th roller coaster, built by Intamin of Switzerland. When it opened, it held the record for steepest drop at a 97 degree angle (commonly referred as a negative drop).
In March 2008, the Hershey Entertainment Complex was certified as Storm Ready by the National Weather Service. This is awarded to communities and organizations/companies that are prepared for Severe Weather. The Hershey Entertainment Complex was certified based on their emergency action procedures, emergency evacuation plans and evacuation shelter(s) capability. The complex contains an extensive system of CCTV Security Cameras, trained security personal and extensive weather spotting and detecting systems.
In 2009, a new section of the Boardwalk was opened, replacing Canyon River Rapids. It was nicknamed "the SeaQuel" and featured two major water rides - a wave pool, The Shore, and a lazy river, the Intercoastal Waterway. The SeaQuel also included the addition of cabanas which was an additional cost for use. The cabanas entrance forced the removal of Rodeo from the park. Rodeo was relocated to Dutch Wonderland. As of 2011, The Boardwalk is home to six games, eleven retail centers and thirteen food concessions.
2010s: Skyrush and the future
On August 2, 2011, Hersheypark announced their 12th roller coaster, Skyrush, set to debut in May 2012. Skyrush and the 2012 season will also bring back an abandoned area of the Park, previously known as the Sunken Gardens.
In June 2011 it was reported that Derry Township, HE&R, and local transportation planners were examining the possibility of realigning Park Boulevard, which currently runs along the park's southwestern border, in order to allow a 31-acre (13 ha) expansion of the park. This would represent the first expansion in over a decade, as the park is currently hemmed in on all sides by roads, parking lots, other entertainment facilities, and the Hershey chocolate factory, and would increase the park's acreage by about 25%. In this plan the park would absorb land that was previously the site of the Parkview Golf Course, another Hershey Entertainment property, which closed in 2005. Such a project is not likely to begin for several years and would not be completed for at least a decade.
Over the many seasons the park operated, as what occurs in any amusement park, new rides are added to replace older rides that aren't popular or require too much maintenance that it becomes too costly for upkeep. Hersheypark has removed approximately 45 rides and attractions.
Hersheypark has had 3 funhouses, none which are currently standing.
Fun House was the park's first funhouse, built in 1930. The building was originally the bath house for the park's first pool. When the pool was drained, the building was left unoccupied and the Mill Chute was built next to it. In 1930, the park turned the building into what was called "Fun House." When it was renovated in 1938, it was given the name Whoops. In 1945, the park purchased a new wooden roller coaster from the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC). Due to its location and size, Whoops was torn down. Today, that space is occupied by the Comet station and the midway for Comet Hollow.
Laughland was a Magic Carpet type of funhouse built by PTC in Hersheypark in 1938. It was initially called Death Valley Funhouse, and in 1940, it was renamed Laughland. Laughland was originally the back portion of the park's first theater, Hershey Park Theater. Both the Theater and Laughland were torn down following the 1965 season, and replaced with a flat ride, Tip-Top.
Funland was the park's third funhouse. It opened in 1946, replacing Whoops. It was located on the southern hill of the park, next to Park Avenue, across from Hershey Park Zoo. The funhouse remained a staple of the park through the 1972 season. However, due to vandalism and maintenance issues, and the park transitioning into a theme park, the funhouse was torn down. It was replaced with the Whipperoo which moved from Comet Hollow. In 1977, Himalaya was moved from Comet Hollow to the same location, replacing Whipperoo. In 1990, Flying Falcon replaced Himalaya and has been in operation, as of the 2011 season.
- Jacques, Charles J. (1996). Hersheypark: The Sweetness of Success. Pennsylvania: Amusement Park Journal. ISBN 0-9614392-2-X.
- "Hershey Park Zoo Reopens May 7 After War-Time Lapse". Billboard Magazine. 13 May 1950. p. 68.
- "Hershey Reopens, Other Spots Trying". Billboard Magazine. 18 September 1943. p. 5.
- "Two New Rides Set For Opening of Hershey Park". Lebanon Daily News. 14 April 1966.
- "Hersheypark News" (Press release). Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company. 27 April 1972.
- Pennsylvania Labor News. 30 April 1971. p. 8.
- "New Entertainment and Admissions Policy at Hershey Park" (Press release). Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company. 5 April 1971.
- "Family Fun Continues Goal of Hersheypark". Patriot News. 7 May 1972.
- "Hersheyaprk will expand parking area". Patriot News. 7 May 1972.
- "'Sunset Savings Plan' Provides $1 Savings". Patriot News. 7 May 1972.
- "Derry Closure Protested". The Patriot-News. January 1972.
- Dave Meister (13 May 1984). "Rides at Hersheypark "choc"-full of real love-and-kisses adventures - but watch out for The Comet". Reading Eagle. p. 86.
- "The Boardwalk at Hersheypark".
- Whitenack, Pamela Cassidy (2006). Images of America:Hersheypark. Charelston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. p. 46.
- Sweetness of Success, Charles J. Jacques, Jr., Amusement Park Journal, 1997
- "Hershey Park To Open Season Sunday, May 19". Lebanon Daily News. 14 May 1940.
- "Hershey Park adds two new rides" (Press release). Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company. 11 April 1966.