Friday, March 1, 2013

…But Where Is It Now?

Yesterday, I mentioned trying to find one of the homes that Leon Bean built in Palo Alto, California. After all, for my upcoming visit to the Santa Clara County area, it would be nice to see some of Leon's handiwork.

Unfortunately, when I’ve taken the addresses given on the various newspaper articles I mentioned yesterday and entered them into Google™ Maps, then converted that to Street View, it appears the buildings showing at those locations are far too new to be Leon’s work.

I’ll keep looking, of course, as it is apparent that he was quite busy during the tenure of his business.

That, of course, makes me wish there were a Historic Street View archives on the Google™ Maps program—perhaps something future generations of genealogists may benefit from, but, unfortunately, not something I can pull up on any databases this year.

There was, however, something I found among the historic newspaper archives that gave me insight on what else kept L. S. Bean, Builder, busy when he wasn’t building houses.

An article in the July 8, 1907, San Francisco Call alerted me to the commercial side of Leon’s business. Of course, I’ve already mentioned that I was aware that Leon was the contractor for the Carnegie library Palo Alto was to receive just a few years prior to this. It didn’t occur to me, though, to pursue such building ventures as a major portion of Leon’s work.

On page eight of that particular issue of the Call, it became evident that commercial property might have been what made Leon’s business so successful, and that I should pursue research in this area, too.


Cornerstone of the Edifice
Is Laid With
Impressive Services


Building Will Cost $33,000
and Will Be Completed
Before Winter

Special Dispatch to The Call

PALO ALTO, July 7—The cornerstone of what will be one of the largest and most handsome houses of worship in Palo Alto was laid with impressive services this afternoon by the congregation of the First Presbyterian church. Under the picturesque oaks surrounding the site of the new edifice in Waverly street at Forrest avenue the members of the congregation, augmented by church people of all denominations of this town and invited clergymen from other peninsular congregations, gathered while the tablet which will mark the cornerstone of the new building was swung into place.
            Dr. Walter Hays, pastor of the church, officiated and led the services.
            The main tower of the church will be 76 feet in height. The church will have a frontage of 96 feet and a depth of 116 feet. There will be two entrances, one on the corner and one on the avenue. The auditorium will be 52 feet square and the choir platform, which is large, will be arranged for a pipe organ. There will be a main gallery 14x40 feet in size, a Sunday school room, 50x36 feet, and two class rooms, 20x36 feet. In addition there will be rooms for the pastor and various cloak apartments. The building will cost $33,000. L. S. Bean is the builder and architect. The church will be finished before the wet weather sets in.


  1. Historic street view would be good. I have also looked for my ancestors houses and a lot of the time all I find is a vacant lot or a business.

    1. Claudia, I've run into those vacant lots, too. Quite disappointing--although I really need to keep it all in perspective. After all, some of these buildings are well over one hundred years old.

      However, I was fortunate, in Fort Wayne, for instance, to find some relatives' homes still standing after all that time.

      And in some jurisdictions, you can find County Assessor offices which have put the old photos of properties online. I've used that process in Chicago and Brooklyn, NY. I'm sure there are others around the country like that, whichever county offices are appropriate.

      I can't help imagine the research world of tomorrow, though, if places like Google Street View would archive their original files from what we now consider to be our "modern times." Can you imagine???

  2. If he did that building he did others..the Clerk in the County Office might be your best bet. Sometimes they are history buffs too:)

    1. That's encouraging to think they might be history buffs, too, Far Side. Now that you put it that way...

      I am actually in San Jose right now...saw Leon's grave today. I'll be perusing the Schellens collection at the library which houses the San Mateo County Genealogical Society's holdings tomorrow. Bit by bit, the pieces are falling together to paint a more three dimensional picture of Leon and his family. I'm hoping I find some addresses while we are still in the area!

  3. I was born in Santa Clara County yet most of my ancestors were in San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties. The San Francisco Call is a wonderful tool - I can't believe all of the information I've learned from it!

    1. Debi, I'm certainly indebted to the San Francisco Call, myself. And, speaking of Alameda, I'm also delving into's collection of Oakland newspapers with some success, too, as I work my way forward in time in this family's saga.

  4. Maybe the historical society of Palo Alto will have the picture of the church that Mr. Bean built , especially if he was the architect ?

    1. Good idea, Magda. Actually, there are a number of resources I'm pursuing in hopes of finding a photograph and obtaining permission to share it here.

      This is one of those (possibly) tedious research chores, though, and it might take time to discover a way to locate not only a photograph of this church, but also any of the homes or businesses that Leon had a hand in constructing. I may have to revisit this topic later, whenever those elusive results are uncovered.

  5. The national registry of historic buildings can also be helpful (if one gets lucky!)

    My ancestors owned an entire block in what is now "downtown" Philadelphia - and nothing whatsoever (outside of photos) remains of the buildings, having been torn-down to make a parking lot for a Church that ironically closed... the Church building was re-purposed by the city as a community center. Philadelphia, however has a program to put photos taken for tax assessment and street works documentation on-line, so for the decades of 1940-1960, there are a wonderful number of "street views" and building shots - including some of my family's foundry business - I found one that appears to be the street in front of the foundry after they installed sidewalks - with a 1930's vintage car (the only car in the photo which shows several blocks!) that my dad swears was his fathers!

    1. Thanks for bringing that up, Iggy. I was wondering if that would be a possibility.

  6. has this image: which appears to show a building being torn down. I'm frustrated with the Palo Alto History website though... I couldn't find a way to see this image through the site (with some sort of caption).

    1. Despite your frustration, Iggy, this link and the trail it led me through are proving to be potentially valuable. Palo Alto is not that far from Redwood City, and I may be back that way for more research soon. I'm going to try contacting the resources I found through your link here and see if I can find anything further. Thanks for sharing that!


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