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.
The architecture of that building was beautiful. Too bad it's gone. A Sears Craftsman-style house that my great-grandfather built is still in the family. Whenever I visit, I find myself lost in thoughts about how he might have measured and cut and nailed each board. My aunt who lives there now will not be able to stay there much longer on her own, I'm sure. It'll be a sad day when that house is no longer "ours." I hope you'll be able to find the Bean buildings. There is nothing quite so satisfying as that tangible evidence that your ancestor was a REAL person.ReplyDelete
Buildings are such a tangible way to get that feeling of being in touch with ancestors. I can certainly relate to what you are saying, Wendy, not only getting lost in imagining the building of the house, but in coming to the time when the family will have to let it go. I know my mother's family had that same feeling about family property being "ours" when her maternal relatives had to sell the original family homestead in Florida that had been in their family since the beginning of statehood. It had an impact on that collective sense of "ours" even though we had no portion in the actual property ownership. I guess it's just a heritage thing.Delete
I have files of builders at the museum..I even have some of the original blueprints that are laminated. One individual was a prolific builder..so many of his creations are still standing..his relatives are always impressed. So I hold out great hope that you will find out more than you think you will after a visit to the area..you need to plan a trip! :)ReplyDelete
That's very encouraging to hear. I'd love to find something like that for Leon.Delete
Actually, getting to Redwood City would not be a difficult thing to do--it is a place on the way to some of my usual destinations in the Bay Area. It's just that I'd have to set aside a day, and actually take the exit off the freeway, instead of just driving by and wishing for a day to get around to it...
It's great that he was responsible for so many great buildings. I certainly hope you will find one of his buildings still standing. Such great history!ReplyDelete
Thank you, Betty...I'm hoping, too! And if I do? I'll be sure to post photographs here!Delete
You should contact the Redwood City Building Department Jacqi. You never know who might be able to remember Leon Samuel Bean and his work in the area.ReplyDelete
I have been a kitchen designer in the area for the past 30 years. Seems to me I've run across a contractor with the last name of Bean in that time. Did Leon have any sons or grandsons in the business?
Thanks so much, Peggy! I will indeed do that. It seems between the local historical society, the San Mateo Genealogical Society and the Redwood City Building Department, I should be able to find some house histories attributable to Leon Bean.Delete
Interesting to see you coming at this family history research angle from your professional background. Thank you for sharing the idea from your point of view. Leon did not have any descendants that went into the business in the Redwood City area, but I have yet to find out more about his father's relatives, who may also have been in the area. His father was a carpenter in the city, but that is going back into the previous century!
I very much appreciate and enjoy your blog Jacqi. I have been blogging on kitchen design for years: http://kitchen-exchange.blogspot.com/ - but can't seem to get started on genealogy. Can you tell me how it has helped your hunt? Maybe that will get the inspiration going.ReplyDelete
Peggy, I had enjoyed taking a look at your blogs earlier, when you posted your first comment. I saw your email address on the link you provided today, and have sent you an email reply.Delete
In addition, another resource I failed to mention: if you are interested in starting your own genealogy blog, Thomas MacEntee has provided a list of useful links to get you started, which can be found at his GeneaBloggers website.
One other resource you might try is the CA Contractor's State License Board. They have a searchable database of license contractors in the state. That will tell you if there are any other Bean contractors nowadays. WOW!ReplyDelete
Thanks for the idea and the resource. Good thinking!Delete