Marvin Beans, 78, builder, restorer

Posted: February 17, 2009

Marvin E. Beans, 78, a master builder who helped restore Independence Hall, died of Alzheimer's disease Thursday at Ann's Choice in Warminster.

For most of the 1960s, Mr. Beans was a carpentry foreman for the National Park Service at Independence National Historical Park. In Independence Hall, he supervised the restoration of the clock tower and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Room. The room, across the hall from the Assembly Room, where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed, features handsome ochre-painted paneling.

Mr. Beans used hand tools, including a special plane, to re-create the curved corners of the original woodwork. Later, he supervised the park service's restoration of the Bishop White House. The Georgian townhouse on Walnut Street was home to William White, the rector of Christ Church and chaplain to the Continental Congress.

In the early 1970s, Mr. Beans was a construction supervisor for home builder A.P. Orleans. Then from 1973 until his retirement in 1992, he was Montgomery County restoration director.

For three years, he headed the refurbishing of the Peter Wentz Farmstead in Worcester Township, where George Washington had spent two nights while directing the Battle of Germantown in 1777. Mr. Beans also supervised the reconstruction of a dam at Sunrise Mill and the restoration of the 18th-century mill house. Other county projects included the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Pottsgrove Manor, and the Pennypacker Mill.

Mr. Beans was born on George Washington's birthday and died on Abraham Lincoln's birthday. He was not a trained historian but worked hard at it, his son Bruce said. He had a closet full of reference books, his son said, and a good teacher: Mr. Beans' father, Horace, once worked on the Thomas Edison house in New Jersey.

"Restoration all goes back to the trades, the ability to work with different woods," Mr. Beans told the Doylestown Daily Intelligencer in 1980. Researching on the job was the key to making accurate reproductions, he said.

Mr. Beans graduated from Upper Southampton High School in Bucks County, and was a veteran of the Pennsylvania National Guard. In the 1950s, he built custom homes, including his own in Warminster, with his father and his brother, William.

Mr. Beans played the trumpet and loved all kinds of music, especially big-band music.

He and his high school sweetheart, Cecelia Maruschak Beans, were married for 57 years. They enjoyed cruises and traveled to Hawaii and Alaska and through the Panama Canal.

In addition to his wife, son and brother, Mr. Beans is survived by sons Robert and Thomas and three grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. today at the William Rowen Grant Funeral Home, 659 Street Rd., Southampton. Burial will be in St. John Neumann Cemetery, Warrington.

Memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, 399 Market St., Suite 102, Philadelphia 19106.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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