Thursday, February 28, 2013

Seeking the House That Leon Built

If Leon Bean were a builder, he would build buildings, right? And those buildings—at least some of them—should be visible, some place where I can find them, right?

Some place like Palo Alto, for instance, since several newspaper entries list the contracts he received to build houses there.

After all, if newspaper reports are to be believed, 1906 would have been a busy year for Leon. Among other projects in Palo Alto, those newspapers tell me, Leon:

  • built a home for H. M. V. Fowler at an estimated cost of $8000 in April
  • supervised construction of a two story home for E. E. Peck on “one of the finest residence streets” for $8065 in the same month, with design by architects Wolfe and McKenzie
  • constructed a residence, at an undisclosed price, for “Professor Drew” somewhere near the corner of Waverley and Melville.

Since I have the opportunity to head in the direction of the Bay Area this weekend, I thought it might be interesting to locate some of these buildings—if any were still standing. We are, after all, talking about buildings completed over one hundred years ago.

Unfortunately, try as I might, I cannot locate actual addresses for any of these homes—with the exception of the approximate location of the third project near Waverley and Melville. Even that one, though, is not readily observable through Google™ Maps, as a few buildings visible there could possibly have also been built at that time.

Oh, how it would help to have found some addresses.

With visions of convoluted research efforts break-dancing in my head, I shudder to think of how I can actually achieve that goal.

Clue: it probably won’t by happening by this Saturday.

Clue number two: it probably will entail a weekday visit to some governmental office. Groan. Read: red tape. Read: long waits.

How much do I want to see this?

Though I’ve reconsidered the cost, I still think it would be cool to find a house that Leon built. It won’t happen this weekend, but someday, it will.

If, of course, the building is still standing. The year of these contracts, after all, was 1906. And everyone who knows anything about the Bay Area knows what happened in 1906.

earthquake damage 1906

Photograph: Damage to houses from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake; from a 1906 stereopticon card; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. I wish I had some brilliant suggestion for you (I certainly owe you some), but I don't. It sounds like a trip to the Clerk's office in Palo Alto might be wroth the trip. Who knows, maybe it will be rainy and foggy and you won't really need to enjoy the bay! Have a great trip!

    1. Au contraire, Smadar, it was an absolutely gorgeous day here in San Jose today! Tomorrow, it may just be warm enough to need an air conditioned which case, I shall relish a trip to the Redwood City library to check out the Schellens Collection and look up some further information on the Samuel Bean family...and, of course, his son Leon!

  2. Check out the third might stick out like a sore thumb if it is still there. Have fun!!! :)

    1. If what I saw on Google's Street View is any indication, I may actually have a hard time determining which of those houses might have been the one Leon built!

  3. What a photo! You are so persistent in your searching that I'm sure you will find Leon Bean's house.

    What is that late-night movie that I once saw about the great San Francisco earthquake? With Nelson Eddy and Jeannette MacDonald? It was lovely, lots of singing.

    1. Mariann, do you mean San Francisco? It has Jeannette MacDonald, but she plays alongside Clark Gable. My husband remembers that one...late night, just as you said.

      Speaking of persistent, we are looking forward to what we can discover as we drive through the old neighborhoods tomorrow. However, I'm sure this will involve more than one visit before I get my bearings about which buildings are still in existence.


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