Beaman, John E. (1888-1944)

Variant Name(s):

John E. Beaman Construction Company; Beamon John E.

Birthplace:

Sampson County

Residences:

  • Goldsboro, Raleigh

Trades:

  • Contractor

Styles & Forms:

Beaux-Arts Classical; Georgian Revival

John E. Beaman (1888-1944) was a contractor active on a large scale in North Carolina, especially during the 1920s. The Raleigh Times of November 30, 1925, claimed that Beaman’s firm was the largest in the state and stated, “Raleigh’s sky-line bears the imprint very distinctly of his operations.” In Raleigh and beyond, from Elizabeth City in the east to Burlington to the west and perhaps beyond, his firm erected key buildings designed by several well-known architects including George Berryman, Charles C. Hartmann, Milburn and Heister, G. Lloyd Preacher, William Stoddart, and H. A. Underwood.

Beaman was born in Sampson County to John Allen and Elizabeth Herring Beaman. He attended the Clinton Graded School and Guilford College Preparatory School before completing his formal education at the University of North Carolina, where he graduated in 1910. He opened his own architectural office but soon joined the practice of William P. Rose, and in 1916 he became a full partner in the firm of Rose and Beaman. During World War I the Greensboro Daily News noted on November 22, 1918, that the “well known contractor” had enlisted in the technicians corps the previous summer and had been promoted to second lieutenant.

In 1919 he established J. E. Beaman Construction Company in Raleigh, and he directed its operations until his death in 1944. During the 1920s Beaman was indeed among the state’s leading contractors, as evidenced by the number and scale of his projects in the period. He was awarded contracts for both large individual buildings and for complexes that included several buildings erected over a short period of time. Details on how he gained so many contracts and how his business was organized to accomplish them have not been located.

The company’s known work in Raleigh alone included several buildings at Meredith College Campus, the Methodist Orphanage, and the State Hospital (present Dorothea Dix Hospital), At Meredith, he was the contractor for the initial group of six red brick Colonial Revival buildings, completed in 1926 for the prestigious Baptist-affiliated women’s college which moved from downtown Raleigh to its location on Hillsborough Street in west Raleigh (see building list). His individual buildings at the orphanage and hospital campuses remain to be identified.

His firm also built such individually distinguished buildings as the State Agriculture Building and three important downtown skyscrapers –the Lawyers Building, the Professional Building, and the Odd Fellows Building, of which all but the Lawyers Building still stands. When the Raleigh Student newspaper reported on January 29, 1926, on new construction in Raleigh, the writer singled out three especially important works, including Beaman’s Professional Building (cost $450,000) and “now occupied”and Odd Fellows Building, begun in 1924 and completed in 1925 ($405,000).

Beyond Raleigh, Beaman’s firm contracted for two major hotels. The Hotel Alamance in Burlington, designed by Charles C. Hartmann, is well documented. In Elizabeth City, local tradition cited in the National Register of Historic Places nomination for the Elizabeth City Historic District, cited the town’s only “skyscraper,” the 9-story Virginia Dare Hotel and Arcade (1927), was designed by “Raleigh architect John Beamon [sic].” It was actually designed by New York based hotel architect William Lee Stoddart, who planned several notable hotels in North Carolina as elsewhere. Beaman’s name was likely associated with it locally because of his firm’s direct involvement in construction.

Beaman is also credited with doing half a million dollars’ worth of construction at present East Carolina University during the 1920s. One project at ECU was a contract for “additional buildings” at the college awarded on May 30, 1922, to include the completion of the administration building and the erection of one unit of a new dormitory, evidently with H. A. Underwood of Raleigh the designer (Charlotte Observer, June 1, 1922).

John E. Beaman married Mary Frances Bowen of Raleigh on June 2, 1920, and they had three children. News of Beaman’s and his family members’ social events and travels appeared frequently in the social columns of the Raleigh newspaper and other papers, suggesting that Beaman and his family were part of the city’s socially prominent citizenry. As of 1927, he lived in a house called Woodlawn on Cowper Drive in Raleigh’s elite Hayes Barton suburb. Within a short time, he moved to his newly built home on prestigious White Oak Road not far from Hayes Barton. There his success as a contractor enabled him to build a handsome and substantial family home in Raleigh’s beloved Georgian Revival style, which still stands and is designated as a Raleigh Historic Landmark as are others of his local works.

Note: Beaman’s last name was sometimes misspelled Beamon.

  • Cynthia de Miranda, “John E. Beaman House,” Raleigh Historic Landmark Designation Application, 2013.
  • Who’s Who in the South (1927)
  • Raleigh News and Observer, May 2, 1944 (clipping in the Charlotte Vestal Brown Collection at NCSU Libraries Special Collections)
  • Raleigh Times, November 30, 1925 (clipping in the Charlotte Vestal Brown Collection at NCSU Libraries Special Collections)
  • Fearnbach History Services, Inc., “Meredith College Campus Report,” 2015, copy at North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh.
Sort Building List by:
  • Alamance Hotel

    Contributors:
    J. E. Beaman, contractor; Charles C. Hartmann, architect
    Variant Name(s):

    Alamance Hotel; Hotel Alamance

    Dates:

    1923-1925

    Location:
    Burlington, Alamance
    Street Address:

    514 S. Main St., Burlington, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Commercial

    Images Published In:

    Allison Harris Black, An Architectural History of Burlington, North Carolina (1987).

    Note:

    The 7-story hotel, built during a period of growth for “Bigger, Better Burlington, is one of two structures that dominate the skyline of Burlington. The town originated as Company Shops but developed into a business and textile manufacturing center. The hotel was built by a local corporation to boost the community’s stature and prosperity and designed by architect Charles C. Hartmann, was an important Greensboro architect from New York. He had gone to Greensboro to supervise construction of the O. Henry Hotel and is best known for his classically organized Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company in Greensboro. The brick structure follows the classical base-shaft-capital organization popular for tall buildings in the first half of the 20th century, with elaborate terra cotta ornament, especially at the seventh story. Hartmann’s 1923-1924 plans for the hotel reportedly survive. The Clayton News of July 9, 1925, noted that workmen were putting down carpets and placing furniture in advance of the opening of the new hotel planned for July 10. With elegant public spaces including a fine ballroom, it was a prestigious center of local social life into the mid-20th century. It closed in 1974 and has been renovated for a new use. See Claudia P. Roberts, Alamance Hotel National Register of Historic Places nomination, 1983.


  • Belk Dining Hall

    Contributors:
    Wilson, Berryman, Kennedy, architects; George Berryman, architect; Charles C. Wilson, architect; John E. Beaman Construction Company, contractor; John E. Beaman, contractor
    Street Address:

    Hillsborough St. Meredith College Campus. Raleigh, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Educational

    Note:

    The long, red brick building that occupies the north end of the original quadrangle features arched openings and restrained classical detailing. It is one of the original six buildings constructed on the Meredith Campus in keeping with the plan developed by the architects Wilson, Berryman, and Kennedy. It was named for the wife of a donor who subsidized a renovation in 1969.


  • Brewer Residence Hall

    Contributors:
    Charles C. Wilson, architect; George Berryman, architect; Wilson, Berryman, Kennedy, architect; John E. Beaman, contractor
    Dates:

    1923-1926

    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:

    Meredith College Campus, Hillsborough St.

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Educational

    Note:

    The residence hall is one of four red brick, classically detailed residence halls built as part of the original campus, with a central, pedimented entrance pavilion.


  • East Carolina University (various buildings)

    Contributors:
    John E Beaman, contractor; George Berryman, architect
    Dates:

    1920

    Location:
    Greenville, Pitt County
    Status:

    Unknown

    Type:

    Educational

    Note:

    It is not established which buildings at present ECU Beaman constructed, but it is likely that he built those designed in the late 1920s by George Berryman as well as others.


  • Faircloth Residence Hall

    Contributors:
    Charles C. Wilson, architect; George Berryman, architect; Wilson, Berryman, Kennedy, architects; John E. Beaman, contractor
    Dates:

    1923-1926

    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:

    Hillsborough St. Meredith College Campus, Raleigh

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Educational

    Note:

    The residence hall is one of four red brick, classically detailed residence halls built as part of the original campus, with a central, pedimented entrance pavilion.


  • John E. Beaman House

    Contributors:
    John E. Beaman, contractor
    Dates:

    1929

    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:

    2120 White Oak Rd

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Note:

    The large and beautifully detailed Georgian Revival style house was built on a prime location at the corner of White Oak and Beechridge roads for Beaman as his family home.


  • Johnson Hall (Meredith College Campus)

    Contributors:
    Charles C. Wilson, architect; George Berryman, architect; Wilson, Berryman, Kennedy, architects; John E. Beaman, contractor
    Dates:

    1923-1926

    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:

    Hillsborough St. Meredith College Campus

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Educational

    Note:

    The centerpiece of the six initial buildings at Meredith is the symmetrical, 3-story brick Johnson Hall, which commands the axial entrance drive from the main, Hillsborough Street entrance. The most imposing building on the campus, it was built as the administration building anchoring the south end of the original quadrangle. Along with the other structures of 1923-1926 and later, it repeats the reassuring vocabulary of red brick, white-trimmed classical buildings employed for many campuses in North Carolina and elsewhere. Various alterations were made in 1956, 1958, and 1960. It was called the administration building until 1931 when it was named for a longtime trustee and leader, Livingston Johnson. These six buildings, including the architecturally related residence halls and a dining hall (see below) , constituted the principal architecture of the campus until the first of a new generation of buildings was erected in 1950.


  • Lawyers Building

    Contributors:
    John E. Beaman, contractor
    Dates:

    1925

    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:

    Salisbury St. Raleigh, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Note:

    The Lawyers Building was a multi-storied office building noteworthy for the famed State Theater at ground level, which showed both movies and vaudeville. This building was one of several large building projects in downtown Raleigh in the 1920s.


  • Lorraine Hotel

    Contributors:
    J. E. Beaman, contractor; Frank B. Simpson, architect
    Dates:

    1916

    Location:
    Lumberton, Robeson County
    Street Address:

    Chestnut St. at Courthouse Square, Lumberton, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Commercial
    Residential

    Note:

    Listed in Manufacturers’ Record (April 13, 1916). The hotel was constructed after a larger facility that was probably planned by Joseph F. Leitner was cancelled because of financial problems (The Robesonian, June 22, 1914, Jan. 10, 1916, Aug. 31, 1916).


  • Lumberton Hotel

    Contributors:
    Joseph F. Leitner, architect; Frank B. Simpson, architect; John E. Beaman, contractor
    Dates:

    1916

    Location:
    Lumberton, Robeson County
    Street Address:

    Chestnut St. at Courthouse Square, Lumberton, NC

    Status:

    Unknown

    Type:

    Commercial

    Note:

    The Manufacturers’ Record of April 13, 1916, noted that the Lumberton Hotel Company had let a contract to J. E. Beaman of Raleigh to build the hotel designed by Frank B. Simpson. There is no known hotel of this era in downtown Lumberton now.


  • Odd Fellows Building

    Contributors:
    G. Lloyd Preacher, architect; John E. Beaman, contractor
    Variant Name(s):

    Commercial Building

    Dates:

    1924

    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:

    Salisbury St. at Hargett St., Raleigh, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Commercial
    Fraternal

    Note:

    The Raleigh News and Observer of July 25, 1922, reported that plans for the 10-story Odd Fellows Building at the corner of Salisbury and Hargett Streets had “gone a step further in the retention of G. Lloyd Preacher & Co., Atlanta, architects to prepare plans for the structure,” with one Nicholas Mitchell, “in charge of the Raleigh office of the company” producing the plans. It was to follow a classically influenced design, with the top to feature “details from an ancient temple.” Like many other skyscrapers of the era, it followed a classical base-shaft-capital organization, with pilasters and modillions at the base and cap. The building was completed in the spring of 1924. The Odd Fellows Building and the Cape Fear Hotel in Wilmington are the two known examples in North Carolina of buildings designed by G. Lloyd Preacher’s prolific and well-known Atlanta firm. Preacher had established his firm in Atlanta in 1922 and in 1923 opened his first out-of-state office in Raleigh.


  • Professional Building

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    1925

    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:

    209 S. McDowell St., Raleigh, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Commercial

    Images Published In:

    Linda L. Harris and Mary Ann Lee, An Architectural and Historical Inventory of Raleigh, North Carolina (1978).

    Note:

    The 8-story building is one of the modest 1920s skyscrapers that redefined downtown Raleigh’s skyline. It was commissioned by William Allen Erwin (1856-1932), a relative of the Alamance County Holt manufacturing family who worked with the Duke family in their entry into the textile industry and became an industry leader himself. It was built in part as a philanthropic investment, for the some of the proceeds from rentals to physicians, dentists, and various corporations were diverted into a trust that benefited the Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, which Erwin had built and given to the Episcopal Diocese (see Hobart Upjohn). The gala opening of the building was in December, 1925. The architects and the contractor were identified in the December 19, 1925, News and Observer.


  • State Agriculture Building

    Contributors:
    Thomas Wright Cooper, architect; Nelson and Cooper, architects; G. Murray Nelson, architect; James A. Salter, preliminary architect; John E. Beaman, contractor
    Dates:

    1922-1923

    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:

    2 W. Edenton St., Raleigh, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Public


  • State Hospital

    Contributors:
    John E. Beaman, contractor
    Variant Name(s):

    Dix Hospital

    Dates:

    1920

    Location:
    Street Address:

    Dorothea Dr.

    Status:

    Unknown

    Type:

    Health Care

    Note:

    Beaman’s company reportedly built more than two dozen structures in the 1920s at the large campus. These have not been specifically identified. The Dix Hill National Register of Historic Places nomination, which encompasses only some of the buildings on the large campus, notes a few from the 1920s, of which some were planned by Charlotte architect Charles C. Hook but does not cite the contractor. Additional research may yield more information.


  • Stringfield Residence Hall

    Contributors:
    Charles C. Wilson, architect; George Berryman, architect; Wilson, Berryman, Kennedy, architects; John E. Beaman, contractor
    Dates:

    1923-1926

    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:

    Hillsborough St. Meredith College Campus, Raleigh, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Educational

    Note:

    The residence hall is one of four red brick, classically detailed residence halls built as part of the original campus, with a central, pedimented entrance pavilion.


  • Vann Residence Hall

    Contributors:
    Charles C. Wilson, architect; George Berryman, architect; Wilson, Berryman, Kennedy, architects; John E. Beaman, contractor
    Dates:

    1923-1926

    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:

    Hillsborough St. Meredith College Campus. Raleigh, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Educational

    Note:

    The residence hall is one of four red brick, classically detailed residence halls built as part of the original campus, with a central, pedimented entrance pavilion.


  • Virginia Dare Hotel and Arcade

    Contributors:
    John E. Beaman, contractor; William Lee Stoddart, architect
    Dates:

    1927

    Location:
    Elizabeth City, Pasquotank County
    Street Address:

    110 S. Morrine St. and 507 E. Main St, Elizabeth City, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Commercial

    Images Published In:

    Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).

    Note:

    The only skyscraper in Elizabeth City, the handsome 7-story brick building was designed by hotel architect William Lee Stoddart of New York. Local tradition cited in the Elizabeth City Historic District National Register nomination named John Beamon (sic) of Raleigh as architect, but it is likely that he was the contractor and was on site and thus was well remembered locally. (Ruth Little-Stokes, Virginia Dare Hotel and Arcade National Register of Historic Places nomination, 1976.) Thomas Butchko’s further research identified Stoddart as the architect. See Butchko, On the Shores of the Pasquotank (1989).


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