The subject for this article presented itself in the form of a curious photograph on the Internet at the Kentuckiana Digital Library. The photo is labeled “Beau Brothers Carriage Shop” and is credited to the noted Winchester photographer A. J. Earp. A search for the Beau brothers in newspapers, city directories and the census turned up nothing. There is, however, a prominent Clark County family with a close spelling, Bean, which could have been misread if someone transcribed a cursive “n” as a “u.”
In 1903, Matt Bean and Waller Bean, “a firm doing business as Bean Brothers,” purchased the old Methodist Church at the northeast corner of Lexington Avenue and Wall Alley. The business may have leased the building before that date, as the 1901 Sanborn Insurance Map shows a carriage shop on that corner. And the 1900 census lists Matt Bean as a carriage merchant.
The great-grandfather of Matt and Waller was John Bean, one of the pioneer settlers of Clark County. He married Eve Senseny in Frederick County, Virginia, in 1789 and came to Kentucky the following year. He settled on the Paris Pike north of Winchester, where he purchased a farm on Strode Creek. At that time, the northern end of Clark County was part of Bourbon, and John was one of the county justices. John rendered long service in the Kentucky militia, in which he attained the rank of major. He died in 1849 at age 83 and left a large estate. Matt and Waller descend from John’s son William, their grandfather. Their parents were James Hall Bean and Mary Elizabeth Thompson, who lived at the Levee in Montgomery County.
The Bean Brothers turned the old Methodist Church into their carriage shop. This building has an interesting history. In 1826, Winchester Methodist-Episcopal Church purchased the lot at the corner of Fairfax Street (now Lexington Avenue) and the alley, and the following year they completed their church. They pulled that building down in 1848 and put up a one-story brick church building. In 1885, the congregation began construction of their third church, at the corner of Main and Hickman, and sold the old church to T. J. Phillips. Sanborn maps show the old church occupied by a printing shop in 1886, the Christian Church in 1890, the YMCA in 1895, and a carriage shop in 1901.
Newspaper ads for the Bean Brothers in 1903 state that “we handle the best makes of Carriages, Buggies, Rockaways, Phaetons, Carts, Road Wagons, Surries, Etc, Etc.” They also carried “a full line of Harness — single and double — Lap Robes, Dusters, Whips, Etc.” and did painting and repair of carriages employing “none but competent and experienced workmen.” The “Beau Brothers” photograph shows ten men in work clothes in front of the shop and two men in suits who may be Matt and Waller Bean.
In 1906, Matt Bean purchased the building standing between the old church and the Winchester fire station (now the Engine House Deli). This three-story frame building had been the carriage shop of William A. Attersall, Winchester’s fifth mayor. Bean built an office in the vacant lot between the old church and Attersall’s and expanded the carriage business into Attersall’s. The “Beau Brothers” photo was taken in front of the former Attersall building (see the circa 1905 photo).
Subsequent advertisements list Matt Bean, proprietor, “successor to Bean Bros.” Waller went his own way; he is listed as a furniture salesman in the 1910 census. Matt Bean was an enterprising citizen, what was called in those days “a wide awake young man.” In addition to his business interests, he was on the city council, was an officer in the Elks and in the First Presbyterian Church, and a director of the Tri-State Vehicle and Implement Dealers’ Association. A March 1909 newspaper article called Matt Bean “one of Winchester’s most energetic young business men” and described the improvements he was making in his business block.
“Mr. Bean has just converted the first floor of the brick building [the old church] adjoining his office into one of the most up-to-date physician and dentists’ offices to be found anywhere. The rooms will be occupied by Drs. Walter and Howard Lyon. The building has been divided by an eight foot hall with four rooms on each side. Mr. Bean is now negotiating with several contractors to add another story to the building and make a first class flat building. The automobile garage that is located on the opposite side of the building [in Attersall’s old place] is the latest metropolitan enterprise to be added to Winchester by Mr. Bean assisted by Mr. Owens. This consumes nearly all of the building and basement that was formerly occupied by Mr. Bean’s carriage manufacturing concern. Between the automobile garage and the fire department is one of the most up-to-date and best bowling alleys in the State.”
Bean surely foresaw that the days of carriages and buggy whips were nearing an end; however, his foray into the automobile business did not pan out. In October 1909, a disastrous fire gutted the fire station and destroyed the Attersall building which housed the automobile garage and bowling alley. The old church, which had been converted to two stories, survived. It was then called the Bean Building and housed Walter Lyon, dentist, Hugh D. Stubblefield, osteopath, W. C. Caywood, John A. Snowden and Howard Lyon, all MDs. The city bought Bean’s now vacant lot next to the fire station as the site to erect a new city hall. Later, the city council reconsidered and built on Wall Street.
Bean did not return to the automobile trade. By 1911 he had entered the undertaking profession in partnership with Fred S. Kerr. The firm of Kerr & Bean Undertakers located first at 57 S. Main St., then moved to the Fraternity Building at 10 Court Street. At some point the partnership ended and Bean Undertaking Company opened at 141 W. Lexington Ave. Bean achieved a wide reputation in the state and served as the coroner for Clark County.
Matt Bean suffered a stroke at age 58 and died shortly after on Aug. 29, 1930. He is buried in Winchester Cemetery. His son Clarence succeeded him in the business and as Clark County coroner. The Bean Building — formerly the Methodist Church and Bean Brothers Carriage Shop — still stands at the corner of Lexington Avenue and Wall Alley.