When people think of “building community” in our times, thoughts usually head toward endeavors somewhat like those indicated by phrases such as “community activist.”
That, however, was not the kind of community builder Leon Samuel Bean was.
By virtue of having a father who served as carpenter for nearly fifteen before his own birth in the community Leon called home, the younger Mr. Bean had a head start on building a reputation as a dependable contractor.
And that is what Leon did: he built buildings that benefited the community.
Years ago, in researching Leon’s roots, I spent a day in Redwood City. Uncovering some mentions of local residences built by Leon’s business, I often wondered if there would be some way to research all the buildings for which he had served as contractor, to see if any of them were still standing.
Unfortunately, I never did figure out how to accomplish that task.
However, now with Internet capabilities, some of those buildings are finding their way to me.
A while back, I was pleased to discover—thanks to a link sent to me by reader and fellow blogger, Intense Guy, a.k.a. “Iggy”—a photograph of the Carnegie Library being built in nearby Palo Alto in 1904 by none other than Leon S. Bean. Located at the intersection of Hamilton and Bryant, it provided me enough information to check out Google™ Maps Street View, to see if the building were still existent. It didn’t appear so, though, so I missed one opportunity to catch a current view of a building Leon once had a hand in creating.
That idea—of finding an L. S. Bean building still standing—will have to wait for a future trip to Redwood City and surroundings, but I may someday find a way to make that a possibility.
In the meantime, checking all I can find online, I discovered yet another reason to revisit the Redwood City area: the San Mateo County Genealogical Society maintains a collection at the local library. From their online database, I discovered that in their collection are several indexed mentions of Leon and his family—everything from records of his father Samuel’s carpentry services to a picture of his daughter Leona’s kindergarten class.
In a community as small as Redwood City must have been in the 1860s, it seems as if Leon, his father Samuel, and even his sister Blanche and, later, his own wife were well known by all. After spending time researching other branches of our family who hailed from big cities like Chicago and New York, it seems such a change to spend time getting to know ancestors and their place—a place where everyone knew everyone else…sometimes almost too well.