FRENCH'S GROVE COMES ALIVE DURING PENNS GROVE DAY
by Donna Federanko-Stout
"Theirs was a time of petticoats, parasols, steamboat rides and quiet afternoon strolls along the lovely Delaware."
The popularity of steamboat travelled to the construction of a wharf at the end of West Main Street (Penns Grove) in 1829. At that time the area was
mostly a fishing village where residents made use of the rich Delaware flowing with fish of all kinds. At this time, the town consisted mainly of a steamboat
landing built by the Wilmington-New Jersey Steamboat Company.
It was in the mid-1800's that the property, which today lies at the foot of West Main Street on the banks of the Delaware, was developed. Originally built by
the Elkinton family of Delaware Avenue, under the care of George Elkinton, the hotel was successful and became one of the best resorts in this section of
the state. At that time, the small grove and park surrounding the hotel was the only recreation center on the east side of the Delaware River, between
Camden and the sea. Summer patrons to the hotel included the wealthy and elite from Philadelphia, Wilmington and other metropolitan area.
Charles Elkinton retired in 1886 selling the business to a Joel Robinson, but only a little more than a year later, it was sold to Joseph G. French.
French dubbed the hotel, French's and the groves that lined the banks of the river. As the number of visitors to this fine resort grew, French added a
fourth story to the hotel. He also constructed a pavilion at the rear of the grove site which housed a merry-go-round and a skating rink.
But Joseph French could not have known what was to come 30 years from the time he bought the hotel. Several things led to this retirement from the hotel
business. Along the river, there were more parks spring up which took away some of the resort's business. This combined with the start of Prohibition,
which caused the closing of the hotel's infamous downstairs bar, ended in the hotel's sale to the Wilson Line Company of Wilmington, Delaware. It was
proposed that an amusement part be built on the site, but that plan was dismissed with the growing popularity of another park on the river, Riverview
Beach Park. The property was then leased and renamed the Olympia Hotel, but as times changed the hotel closed and remained idle unit it was razed in
It is here, in the old French's Grove that brought so much pleasure to hose who visited our shores, that residents will be celebrating Penns Grove Day on
Saturday, June 12. There will once again be the laughter of children, the sounds of music playing and people enjoying the sunshine as the visitors did so
long ago. Penns Grove Day celebrations over the past four years have brought new life to this forgotten "grove." Come out and enjoy a day reminiscent of
those "good old days of parasols and petticoats, of long, lovely strolls along the banks of the mighty Delaware.
HOMETOWN NEWS, JUNE, 1993