High Point Mansion

High Point grounds were open to visitors as a public garden, 1913
High Point grounds were open to visitors as a public garden, 1913

On May 25, 1898, Milton Hershey married Catherine Sweeney of Jamestown, NY in the rectory of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. He was 41 and she 26. Following the wedding they returned to Lancaster, PA where Mr. Hershey owned a highly successful confectionery business. When Milton Hershey decided to move his chocolate business to Derry Church, PA and build a town that would support his workers, he and Catherine, or Kitty as he called her, made plans to build a home.

The land for their new home was surveyed in 1903, shortly after ground was broken for the new factory. Mr. Hershey hired C. Emlen Urban, a noted Lancaster architect, to design their new home. Urban had also been hired to develop plans for the new chocolate factory and most of the other major buildings constructed during the early years of the community. A contract for the Hershey's mansion was signed in 1905 but construction was delayed until early 1906. The mansion was completed in 1908 and Milton and Catherine Hershey soon took up residence.

Their new home was named High Point, reflecting its location on a rise above the chocolate factory. Locally it was known more simply as the Hershey Mansion. High Point, while a gracious and comfortable home, was relatively modest for individuals of the Hersheys' financial means. The construction, furnishings and landscaping of the Mansion may have cost as much as $100,000. Total cost of the house itself, as seen in an invoice from architect C. Emlen Urban, was $53,433. Compared with the homes of other wealthy industrialists, the Mansion was modest both in size and appointments. It had few rooms (22), no bar, and no swimming pool. The swimming pool came years later after the Mansion had been presented to the Country Club. In comparison, George Vanderbilt spent an estimated $10 million for his 250 room mansion, Biltmore, situated on 125,000 acres in Asheville, North Carolina.

In designing High Point, architect Urban created an open design for the first floor. There were no doors between the living room, dining room, library and the entry hall. The entry hall was specially designed to receive a cut glass torchiere which Mr. Hershey had first seen at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Some of the furniture and much of the china had been bought by the Hersheys on their travels abroad or on shopping excursions to Philadelphia and New York. They also relied on the services of The Chapman Decorative Company of Philadelphia for decorating the Mansion's interior.

In decorating the house, while the Hersheys made use of professional advice, they had the courage to satisfy their own tastes. Kitty saw to it that the rooms had plenty of color. The Blue Room and the Green Room were the upstairs guest rooms. Mr. Hershey’s was the Gold Room. In Mrs. Hershey’s room the walls and carpet were rose pink. The living room had several glassed-in bookcases furnished with sets of standard authors. On winter evenings Milton Hershey used to sit there, looking into the fireplace, which was furnished with gas logs.

The staff at High Point was small: a housekeeper, a houseman, and a housemaid. The housekeeper was Mrs. Bertha Candoni, who had first become attached to the Hersheys in Europe as Mrs. Hershey’s efficient traveling companion and interpreter. She spoke seven languages. The houseman, Clayton Lehman, had been a gardener at the Homestead and became the majordomo at the Mansion. He looked after the lights, sent for the carpenter and plumber when they were needed, cleaned the chandelier, walked the dog, and kept peace when possible between Mrs. Candoni and the housemaid (who changed twenty-two times in eleven years).

The gardens were originally laid out by Philadelphia’s landscape architect, Olgesby Paul. In the following years they were developed and expanded by Harry Haverstick. Hershey Press, the local newspaper, kept the community up to date concerning the development of High Point’s gardens.

Kitty Hershey’s greatest pleasure was in the garden. Behind the house was a small arbor by a flower-bordered pool into which a fountain tossed a jet of water. She used to sit there for hours, moving only when a gust of wind blew the spray over her. She tried to protect herself from this annoyance by moving the fountain. Jake Hummel moved it for her repeatedly, but nothing would do until the spray fountain was removed altogether and the Boy with the Leaking Boot (now in the Hershey Gardens) replaced it.

It was in the gardens and the landscaping that Kitty Hershey made her greatest contribution to the town. Haverstick thought highly of Kitty Hershey’s taste. "She was interested in the planting of trees and everything that made the properties look nice" recalled one of the gardeners.

Catherine Hershey died March 23, 1915 after a long illness. In about 1918 a memorial rose garden was planted at High Point. It was edged with a boxwood hedge and peonies. According to Harry Erdman, manager of the Hershey Nursery and Greenhouse, the garden was about four hundred feet east of the Mansion. From the garden, entering the woods to the east was an arch with climbing American Beauty roses. The rose garden was planted near the Country Club’s future swimming pool. When the pool was constructed in 1954, the memorial rose garden was transplanted to the Hershey Rose Garden. At that same time High Point garden columns were also moved to the Rose Garden.

In the years following Kitty's death, Milton Hershey spent long periods away from High Point traveling. In 1930 he turned High Point over to the newly formed Hershey Country Club retaining two second floor rooms for his apartment. The first floor rooms were converted to meet the needs of the Country Club. In 1939 the Country Club added a one story free standing addition to serve as the Club's men's locker room.

Milton Hershey died on October 13, 1945, just one month after his 88th birthday. High Point continued to serve as the Country Club Clubhouse until 1970 when the Club moved to a new facility on Derry Road. High Point sat vacant until 1977 when it was acquired by Hershey Foods Corporation [today The Hershey Company] to serve as a corporate headquarters. Hershey Foods Corporation made extensive renovations to the building to make it a functional office building. The company used High Point for their executive offices until 1991 when they relocated to a new corporate headquarters located just north of Hershey. The current tenant of High Point is the Hershey Trust Company which has occupied the building since December 1991.

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