Archived Story

Jo-Ann Boepple: Revisiting the history of French’s Hotel and Resort

Published 5:06pm Thursday, August 18, 2011

The question has come up again about French’s Hotel and Resort. I wrote about this a few years back but new information has been given to the museum so this week I’ll review the information I had before and then next week “the rest of the story.”

The resort was on the hill on North Shore Drive across the road from the lake. It was a white clap board building with a grocery store, dining room, parlor and kitchen on the ground floor. Twelve to 15 guest rooms were in the upper floor. A long porch graced the front of the hotel for guests to enjoy the lake breeze and a place to socialize and enjoy lazy afternoons. Slot machines were not illegal at the time and a penny machine was greatly used.

The hotel was built by Henry and Myrtle French in 1906. Their two sons, Ford and Harry, were given the responsibility to drive the horse and buggy to the railroad depot to pick up guests who were arriving on the train. Later they used their motorcar to deliver guests to the hotel.

The boys married the Barber sisters, Katie and Gertrude, who grew up in the white house on Section Street and they all worked at the hotel. Later the daughter of Harry and Gertrude, Barbara joined the family and worked in the grocery store. The store provided groceries for summer lake residents and they delivered them to their homes as did two dairies, Wambaugh and Suabedissen, who also delivered milk to the summer cottages.

The French’s raised much of the food used in the hotel kitchen and sausage was made from butchered hogs. Henry milked the cows and raised chickens for their meat and eggs.

Since there was no running water; indoor plumbing was not a part of the hotel. Two outhouses were out behind the hotel for each of the sexes with a low seat for children. Washbowls and chamber pots were in the rooms and baths were taken in the lake.

The beach across the road was reached by a set of wooden steps and walk ways. Swimming and fishing were vacation pastimes. Anchored off shore was a raft for all to use and boats were available for fishing.

The hotel was sold several times after 1943 with Vernon Stockbarger, Gerald Lane and Art Lowe as owners. After the thrill of vacationing at the hotel wore off the building was turned into apartments and in 1987 the building burned. There were several small fires from candles and the final end came with a big fire that was too difficult to put out. It was the end of an era that provided great memories for many.

This information came from a book written by Lenore Cassady, Melba Freeman and Norma Lu Mehan, “Reflections of Eagle Lake,” that is available at the museum or from the authors at Eagle Lake.

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