History of Frenchtown

In 1757, three joint owners of a tract purchased from the West Jersey Land Society began laying out streets and building lots at Calvin’s Ferry. The developing town was to be called “Alexandria” in honor of William Alexander, one of the three owners. In 1776, the three sold the settlement to Thomas Lowrey, a Flemington speculator.

In 1794, Lowrey sold the tract to Paul Henri Mallet-Prevost, a Swiss fugitive from the French Revolution. He and other early settlers were French speaking, leading some to begin calling the place “Frenchtown.”

Earlier, the town bore the names of the many ferry operators residing on both sides of the river. The official name has been Alexandria Ville and Sunbeam as well as Frenchtown.

The Borough was formed by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 4, 1867, from portions of Alexandria Township. Additional territory was gained from Kingwood Township in 1865.

The first bridge across the Delaware at Frenchtown was a six-span, covered wooden bridge built in 1841 on the five piers that still stand today, and the community became a gateway to Pennsylvania.

The arrival of the Belvidere Delaware Railroad in 1853 sparked continued growth in Frenchtown, and by the 1860s, mills were being converted into larger factories. Around the same time, the town had three major hotels, The Lower Hotel (present day Frenchtown Inn), The Middle Hotel (no longer existing), and the Upper Hotel (the National Hotel). In 1889, Britton Brothers Big Brick Store, which sold a variety of goods, opened on Bridge Street.

In the early 20th century, growth was spurred by the arrival of Frenchtown Porcelain Works, the establishment of the Milford plant of the Warren Paper Company, and the rise of the poultry industry.

Thank you to David Miller for providing these wonderful photos. He can be reached by e-mailing david.miller@email.com.