French Court is a little cul-de-sac off of Dempsey Road near the Highway 680 interchange with Montague and Landess that you’ve probably never even seen unless you live in that area. However, it is named for a very early local pioneer who ran the first hotel in Milpitas.
Alfred French arrived in the Santa Clara Valley from Ohio, by way of the Gold Country in 1852, in the company of other early settlers Dudley Wells and Nicholas Harris.
The original hotel structure, located on the northwest corner of Serra and Main Street, was built by Alex Anderson (on a lot rented from Michael Hughes, Milpitas’ first American settler) and run briefly by two other people before French purchased it. County records show that in 1859, French paid A.M. Thompson $1500 for the parcel of land on which the hotel and stable were located. French’s Hotel burned down on January 17, 1861, but French immediately rebuilt it and kept it running for at least 30 years.
The US Census of 1860 lists the French family as Alfred, Nancy, John S., Theodore, E. E., William E., and their oldest daughter Clemina French (age 25) who was one of the first school teachers in the first Milpitas Grammar School, then recently built on Higuera grant land owned by Abraham Weller at the north end of town.
When French sold it in the 1890’s, it became the Milpitas Hotel, which burned down again in the great Milpitas fire of August 1910 that destroyed three saloons, two barbershops, and a grocery store as well.
French served as a Justice of the Peace in Milpitas from the 1860s to the 1880s. Around 1890, he retired and moved to San Jose.
The lot on which the hotel once stood has remained more or less intact down to the present day. By the mid 1920s, a Fat Boy Barbeque Restaurant was erected on the site. The Fat Boy Restaurants were one of the first “fast food” chains in America and the one in Milpitas was a landmark for community connection for many years until it finally closed in the 1970’s. Today the site is occupied by a dental office building with a fine display of local history in the lobby.
April 1, 2012 by mhs