Fred F. French Companies records

Collection Data

Description
The Fred F. French Companies was established in New York City by Fred Fillmore French (1883-1936) in 1908. French was a real estate developer whose innovative investment strageties financed the construction of the Tudor City and Knickerbocker Village housing developments, and the Midtown skyscraper that bears his name. After French's death in 1936, Aaron Rabinowitz became the Chief Executive Officer. The Fred F. French Companies records consist of financial, legal and promotional materials in a range of formats including, project development binders and scrapbooks, correspondence, legal agreements, stock ledgers and certificates, prospectuses, brochures, photographs, and architectural blueprints and renderings that document French's distinctive approach to developing real estate in New York City during the early to mid 20th-century.
Names
Fred F. French Companies (Creator)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1902 - 1966
Library locations
Manuscripts and Archives Division
Shelf locator: MssCol 6206
Genres
Documents
Correspondence
Scrapbooks
Photographs
Notes
Biographical/historical: The Fred F. French Companies was established in New York City by Fred Fillmore French (1883-1936) in 1908. French was a real estate developer whose innovative investment strageties financed the construction of the Tudor City and Knickerbocker Village housing developments, and the Midtown skyscraper that bears his name. In addition to these properties, French owned several large apartment buildings in the Park and Fifth Avenue neighborhoods, some commercial buildings, Interlaken Gardens, a community on Westchester Lake, and the Hotel Everglades in Miami, Florida. French was born in the Bronx in 1883. His father, a cigar maker, died when French was a child, leaving French's mother, a University of Michigan graduate, with four children to raise on a limited income. As a child and young adult, French worked odd jobs to help support the family. Through scholarships, French was able to attend high school, at the Horace Mann School, and Princeton University for one year, before leaving to try ranching in the American West. French soon returned to New York where he held various lower-level positions in construction and real estate ventures, before he began developing properties for himself. Through his innovative investment strategy, which became known as the "French Plan," projects were financed by selling stock to stockholders and small investors, forgoing traditional bank financing. French also created architecture departments to provide in-house design services, acted as general contractor in the construction of buildings, and created subsidiaries to manage properties. Under this plan, French was able to maximize control of his developments and increase his profits. Each building or development became its own organization that existed under the umbrella of the Fred F. French Companies. After French's death in 1936, Aaron Rabinowitz became the Chief Executive Officer of the Fred F. French Companies at the request of French's widow. Prior to this position, Rabinowitz had been the founder of Spears and Co., Inc., which he ran until 1928 when he left the company to his brothers. Rabinowitz also served on both the New York State Board of Housing and the State Insurance Board. In the following decades, the corporation sold the majority of its initial holdings and shifted its emphasis to real estate investment.
Content: The Fred F. French Companies records consist of financial, legal and promotional materials in a range of formats including, project development binders and scrapbooks, correspondence, legal agreements, stock ledgers and certificates, prospectuses, brochures, photographs, and architectural blueprints and renderings that document French's distinctive approach to developing real estate in New York City during the early to mid 20th-century. The scrapbooks and project binders represent a broad spectrum of French projects with a heavy emphasis on the Tudor City and Knickerbocker Village housing projects. They document the process of raising money for, and construction of, new buildings, as well as documenting the promotional activities of the Companies. Photographs document the prior conditions of the potential building sites, the construction processes, and the completed buildings. Although the financial papers and legal records are fragmentary, they provide insights into the investment strategies and legal particulars of the Companies. The records do not document the Companies disposition of properties and shifted emphasis to investing.
Physical Description
Extent: 8.56 linear feet 10 boxes
Type of Resource
Text
Identifiers
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b19807923
MSS Unit ID: 6206
Archives collections id: archives_collections_6206
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 3c300340-4557-0135-b644-256b94bd54ce
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