February 14, 2013
As you may expect, given the size of the Hershey Company, it was this enterprise, under the direction of its founder Milton S. Hershey, that established the city that now bears his name. What’s confusing is that down the road in Harrisburg, the Hershey Creamery makes a popular brand of ice cream, and while the name is the same, the company isn’t. It’s a strange coincidence that Jacob Hershey and his four sons founded the creamery at about the same time and in the same area as Milton S. Hershey was setting up his chocolate company. Both enterprises took advantage of the vast dairy industry that existed in this part of the Pennsylvania, but they were not related, nor are the companies to this day.
Since their formation, things have not gone smoothly between the two companies. Lawsuits regarding the name were launched regularly through the decades, although currently things are quiet. As it stands now, The Hershey Company is supposed to stay away from ice cream; and The Hershey Creamery doesn’t do chocolate bars. This didn’t stop the Hershey Creamery from introducing its own brand of “Kisses” at one point, however. That was a bit bold.
Harrisburg/Hershey, Pennsylvania. Click image to enlarge
So the Harrisburg area turns out to be an interesting place to visit, although the city itself has some interesting attractions. It’s a picturesque city of bridges, a dozen of which span the Susquehanna River (although not all are in operation). The Market Street Bridge (formerly the Camelback Bridge) is particularly notable for its huge art deco lamps and appealing overall design. Design is also a key feature of the impressive courthouse at the foot of Market Street, which crisply blends modern and classical elements and looks as if it could have been built last year as opposed to six decades ago.
The house of John Harris Jr., founder of Harrisburg, still stands on Front Street, and fittingly is now the location of the local historical society. Numerous old residences have been restored in Shipoke, giving the area an almost nautical ambiance. Such buildings would surely look at home in St. John’s, Newfoundland or in a coastal New England town. The Riverfront Park across from Shipoke is an excellent venue for a long stroll, recalling the city’s industrial and cultural past with historic markers along the way. You can also visit the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum, tour the State Capitol building or cruise the river on the Pride of the Susquehanna riverboat. It’s a paddlewheeler.
But a key destination for me in Harrisburg had nothing to do with the city’s history, and you won’t find it in the list of “things to do” posted on the helpful “Visit Hershey and Harrisburg” website. No, The Atomic Warehouse is something else entirely. A cornucopia of pop culture material from the 1930s to the 1970s, I’d wanted to visit this place for years, having scored a mint 1955 Zenith Flashmatic TV remote and an unusual Firesign Theatre poster from proprietor Steve Perlman via his website.
Really, nothing can prepare you for Mr. Perlman’s warehouse. First of all, it doubles as his home, the three floors of this turn-of-the century commercial building connected by an industrial elevator big and strong enough to move a car into his living room should he be so inclined (there were two motorcycles in the building when I was there, one in the elevator and one in Mr. Perlman’s kitchen).