French’s Hotel was the grand lady who sat beside the river at the foot of West Main Street near the pier. It was the first stop for many who traveled to
Penns Grove to enjoy summer on the Delaware shore. Original construction of the grand hotel began in 1850. 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 areas. The hotel came under the
management of Joseph G. French in 1869. French had become known for his hostelry skills in his running of a fine hotel in Woodstown and the smaller
hotel that bore his name on the corner of Main St and Delaware Avenue. In 1883, French’s Hotel was described as “a well kept house, and it is well filled
with boarders in the summer season.” 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 and the groves that lined the banks of the river French’s. 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. A petite restaurant stood
to the left of the hotel entrance. Folks could treat themselves to a refreshment from the outside stand or visit the barroom located in the basement of the
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 Horace Wilson, head of the Wilson Line and the Wilmington
and New Jersey Ferry Company, in January 1916.
It was proposed that an amusement park 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 with Penns Grove no longer in demand as a resort town the fate of the
business was sealed. In 1931 it served its last guest and after standing vacant for 2 years the building was razed in 1933.