Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

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The Breezy Shades of Night

Emerging from the Iberian Lounge into the Cuban-inspired faux courtyard called The Fountain Lobby inside The Hotel Hershey (1932) in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

100 Hotel Road, Hershey, Pennsylvania: 02 July 2014

part of the Hersheypark album


Ascending the hill through the parking lot, The Hotel Hershey building sits ahead large and awash with light. We are here to enjoy a beverage after a day of exploring Hershey, rural farmlands and the Amish Country of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Two-and-a-half hours and three glasses of The Glenlivet later, I exit the delightful Iberian Lounge and pause at my view.

With a unique scene before me and delicious single malt Scotch flowing through my veins, my mind immediately links what I see to an unrelated image in memory. Having left my camera in the truck, I ask to borrow Mom's so that I might attempt to capture this scene from my mind's eye. I shoot seven frames before we leave and then promptly forget about them.

Recently reminded of Hershey, I browsed Mom's photos from this day and discovered my seven shots among them. The fun evening's memories came back to me in flashback as I amusingly had the same thought looking at the pictures as I did standing in the hotel over a year earlier. The above two photographs viewed consecutively are the result, my whisky-fueled homage to a shot in the Luc Besson film The Fifth Element (1997).

In a brief transitional scene Video we see the titular character as she arrives aboard the ocean liner starship Fhloston Paradise to a musical welcoming committee. As she walks into the ship's main lobby, the camera dollies forward while slowly panning up to reveal the grand room, its two fountains and a row of large elliptical windows showing the planet Fhloston's sky.

Fhloston Paradise interior film frame
Gaumont

Fhloston Paradise interior film frame
Gaumont

The Hotel Hershey's original main lobby and registration area, the Fountain Lobby was designed to emulate the look and feel of the patio courtyards that Milton Hershey had enjoyed during his winter trips in Cuba. With its antique oak elements, Ernest A. Batchelder tilework, inlaid marble from Baumgardner Company in Baltimore, Maryland, "palm trees, seating areas, wrought iron lights and a painted sky," the room would have certainly made an impression to hotel guests coming in to register.

Ironically, it turns out that one of the other photographs I took inside the Fountain Lobby is unintentionally similar to a classic photograph of the room. I found the following circa 1934 image of "the Patio" in the Hershey Community Archives while researching this article. If I had only shot with a wider lens and taken a few steps back and to the right…

The Fountain Lobby was refurbished along with the rest of the hotel in 1998. As infrastructure work unfortunately required cutting into the painted ceiling, the hotel subsequently hired artist Gary Thomas to repaint it in the original style. Other work in the room included extensive cleaning of the tilework, "[stripping] decades of wax buildup to reveal the original vibrant colors."

A natural extension of the lobby, the Iberian Lounge "was designed to be 'Spanish in its atmosphere and rich with oriental rugs, oak-paneled ceiling and columns, tinted walls, soft rugs […] a charming fireplace and a mural depicting a Spanish waterfront scene.'" The mural, now located behind the bar, was painted by the hotel's interior designer Robert von Ezdorf. He also incorporated some of the mural's designs in the adjoining Fountain Lobby.

Designed during prohibition, the Iberian Lounge was built as a reading and sitting room. Following the repeal of prohibition in 1933, the hotel added a wine cellar and opened a cocktail lounge in the Garden Terrace, a 5,490-square-foot space elsewhere on the first floor. The Iberian Lounge became a bar in 1968 and the Garden Terrace is currently a ballroom available for events.

Perhaps a bit removed at first, our bartender Kirk poured stout drinks and eventually warmed up to us by sharing some of the venue's history. It was a fun diversion to spend time in a beautiful hotel constructed in the early 1930s, well-maintained in the interim and remaining remarkably similar to its original appearance. On our way out, I relieve myself of driving duty after my indulgence in the lounge and leave Mom with the valet so that Ross and I can go and fetch the truck for her.

Back at our campsite — wide awake and unsurprisingly keen for a meal — I waste no time suggesting that we visit the delicious Cocoa Diner in Hummelstown, just four minutes away door-to-door. A classic eatery serving a comprehensive menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner fare twenty-four hours a day[1] since 2002, the Cocoa Diner was an instant favorite of mine a few days earlier.

I had the grilled ham steak dinner served with mashed potatoes and gravy, peas and corn medley, vegetable soup and a pineapple ring. Previously, I had a patty melt on grilled rye bread, topped with Swiss cheese and sautéed onions and served with French fries, coleslaw and a pickle. Both meals were excellent, served exactly how I wanted and expected.

  1. Cocoa Diner is closed for seven hours every week: from 2300 on Monday until 0600 on Tuesday. The restaurant is otherwise always open for business at 590 East Main Street, Hummelstown, Pennsylvania.

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