May 5, 2024



Today we present "A Vigorous Life: The Story of Fred F. French, Builder of Skyscrapers," by two authors: Fred French, who provides a firsthand account of his early life, from his birth in 1883 until he took his first business partner in 1910. In the second part, his son, John French, picks up the story and continues it through the early 1990s. (The book was published in 1993.)

This is a big subject, which will play out over several posts. In our initial effort, we take a look at French, the man.  Little is known about his personal life, but a few photographs survive.    

This picture of French was undoubtedly commissioned by the French Company to be used as an official portrait. Thus, everything is perfect from the necktie ‒ and necktie pin ‒ down to his thumbs, casually tucked in the vest pocket.     

In 1914 he is introduced to Cornelia Williams, a young lady of some means. After a spirited courtship, they are married seven months later. 

They take a summer house in Pawling, New York while Fred builds for them a city home, the penthouse at 1140 Fifth Avenue. 

They have four children: Theodore, Fred Jr., John, and Ellen. Photo made in 1927, the year that the French Building and Tudor City arrived.

Fred with his sons, Theodore and John. He does smile for the camera when around children.


  1. AnonymousMay 05, 2024

    Thanks for this post.

  2. AnonymousMay 06, 2024

    Wow! Do you have a copy of this book?

  3. Yes, I do, after years of saving up for it