Tuesday, February 6, 2018

French Point Hotel, 1891 - 1902

French Point Hotel
Economy PA
Manuscript Group 354: Old Economy Village Collection
Photo Number 390
courtesy of Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Old Economy Village
used with permission



The French Point Hotel was built in 1891, during the waning days of the Harmony Society's existence, at the northern edge of what is now Ambridge--but was then Economy--approximately where Merchant St. currently intersects with Ohio River Blvd. (Rt. 65).

The hotel was one of the important buildings in the historical bridge linking Economy with Ambridge

"Economy Hotel (New)"
French Point Hotel
Economy PA
Manuscript Group 354: Old Economy Village Collection
Photo Number 624
courtesy of Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Old Economy Village
used with permission

The vintage panorama below shows the French Point Hotel on the far left. The Harmony Society's lumberyard is on the right, below the hotel. The hotel's being located near the lumberyard led to the hotel's destruction on April 23, 1902.

"Lumber Works. Economy PA."
French Point Hotel (left) above Harmony Society's lumberyard
courtesy Laughlin Memorial Library Archives

Local historian Bill Bowan wrote information about the photo in the bottom margin:
W. K. Shafer Family purch. Hotel from Harmony Socy. 1895. Lumberyard & Hotel burned down in the same fire 1900-1901.
The fire began at the lumberyard, eventually spreading one to two acres, destroying the hotel, lumberyard, and several outbuildings. The source of the fire was thought to be a spark from a passing train engine. So Bowan was right about the fire, but not the year the fire happened.

Although described as the setting for "many brilliant functions...by society people of Pittsburg and Sewickley," the hotel, fortunately, had been vacant for at least five weeks at the time of the fire. (Pittsburg Commercial Journal, April 24, 1902). The reason the building was unoccupied was that it was in the process of being converted into a sanitarium of some kind. A train car of goods for the new sanitarium was also destroyed in the fire.

Previously, the hotel had been a popular stopping point for cycling groups traveling along "the Beaver road." (The Pittsburgh Press, Aug. 22, 1898; May 13, 1899).
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Since the French Point Hotel was destroyed in 1902, it could not have been one of two hotels where travelers might have stayed in 1906 as stated in the book Ambridge by Larry R. Slater.
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Ambridge trivia: Jim Holman, the current owner of the K & N Restaurant, 755 Merchant St., is a descendant of the Shafer family who owned the French Point Hotel. I know this because while I was in K & N one lunchtime, Mr. Holman came out from the kitchen to show me a framed copy of the panorama above and told me that his family had owned the hotel. He added that he had a much larger version of that photo at home.
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Thank you to Jeffrey Snedden, the writer of the "Histories & Mysteries" column for the Beaver County Times, for his invaluable help in finding information about the fire that destroyed the French Point Hotel.

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