Hershey’s Mill is nearly 800 acres of rolling terrain in horse country of historic Chester County. Over centuries much has occurred on this East Goshen township land.
Sir William Howe and his British troops encamped on this property after the battle of Brandywine during the Revolutionary War. Hershey’s Mill land is also where General Anthony Wayne fox hunted before the Revolution. After the American Revolution and during the Reign of Terror in France, the French nobleman Louis Philippe (Duke of Chartres, later King of the French) and his brothers (the Count of Beaujolais and the Duke of Montpensier) took refuge in the surrounding woods.
Mr. Sullivan and the Mill
The property now occupied by Hershey’s Mill was acquired as part of a more than 2,000 acre farm by John J. Sullivan, a prominent Philadelphia lawyer. Before Mr. Sullivan’s purchase, the property passed through several owners. According to public records, the property passed successively from Thomas Pratt, who had acquired it in 1745, to Thomas Rees who in 1806 transferred it by will to his son, Benjamin, and thereafter to a succession of owners, including Enoch and Rachel Hershey and Wylie Vilas (1912) who then sold it to Mr. Sullivan. The name “Hershey’s Mill” probably derives from the Hershey ownership and the dam now located across from the main gate.
Mr. Sullivan was the first of nine children living in the family home on Rittenhouse Square. A bachelor, he visited the farm on weekends and entertained friends. He was active in his church, and was a founder of the nearby Malvern Retreat House. During a period in the 30s, Mr. Sullivan was Indian Commissioner; a niece recalls meeting Indians on the grounds during that time.
After he made his permanent residence in what is now known as Sullivan House, he undertook improvements to the house and furnishings such as a wide staircase and fine antique furniture. For recreation, he greeted fox hunting friends in early morning on the front portico and then later in the day entertained them on the rear terrace high above the countryside.
Because of an abundance of hickory trees, the estate became known as Shellbark Hollow. Mr. Sullivan made at least ten land purchases ranging from one to 148 acres.
Hershey’s Mill Community
After Mr. Sullivan’s death in 1958, Sullivan House was virtually destroyed by vandals. Rescued from a state of disrepair by the first developer of Hershey’s Mill, it was renovated as a meeting place for residents, a function that is now provided by the adjacent Community Center. The main living area, including the dining room and kitchen, is now available to residents and others for private functions.
The third floor is used by model railroaders who have erected an extensive track layout with scenery enabling model trains to move between rooms.
Construction of Hershey’s Mill as a planned residential community began in February 1974 with the erection of Ashton Village in East Goshen Township. The minimum age for ownership was 42, later raised to 55 to conform to Federal law. From this beginning, a total of 25 villages were constructed.
There were turbulent early years. Because of financial troubles of early developers, prospective owners were forced to occupy as tenants. After being threatened with eviction by the FDIC, a new owner resolved the financial problems in August 1977. Meanwhile, construction of other villages in Hershey’s Mill continued with lesser financial problems.
The management concept of the community is that each resident is a voting member of the Homeowners Association for its village that is responsible for maintenance of the common village area and the exterior of each dwelling. The President of each village is a member of the Masters Association, which is responsible for all common areas outside each village. Each resident pays a maintenance fee for these services.
Each village offers custom designed residences and various amenities. A large pool, courts for tennis and other racket sports and extensive walking trails are available to all residents. An area is provided for residents’ individual gardens. A wood shop is housed in a separate building and is available for a nominal membership fee. Innumerable activities are offered and are publicized on Channel 20, the community TV station.
Hershey’s Mill Golf Course, a challenging PGA Championship 18 hole course, is open to all for an initiation fee and dues. The club has a full service dining room plus a bar and grill.
The principal attractions of Hershey’s Mill are the open space, ease of upkeep, beautiful landscaping, congenial neighbors and full time security.