Remembering Notable Vermont Architect, Marcel Beaudin

Marcel Beaudin, AIA, standing in front of the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center as it was under construction. Photo by Matthew Thorsen courtesy of Seven Days

Marcel Beaudin is a name known throughout the Vermont architectural community as an influential figure in the state's history. Practicing in Vermont from 1957 until 2018, his firm produced a significant catalog of work (estimated to be nearly 2000 completed projects), with notable projects including the award winning Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center, the Burlington Boat House, and a number of distinctive modernist residences, among others.

A retrospective of Beaudin's architectural work was exhibited by Burlington City Arts in 2005. Beaudin's archive of his work was added to the Jack and Shirley Silver Special Collections Library at the University of Vermont in 2020.

Vermont State Architectural Historian, Devin Colman, recently shared: “I had the pleasure of knowing Marcel for the past 20 years, and the 2005 exhibit of his work at Burlington City Arts emphasized what an important and lasting contribution he made to Vermont’s built environment. Trained in the modernist tradition and the International Style, Beaudin also advocated for a distinctly Vermont-inspired architectural style, that evolved from the building forms and materials of the state. Marcel wanted his buildings to work well, be appropriate to their site, and, most importantly, meet the needs of the client. Many clients became close friends, their relationship extending well beyond the actual building project. I feel especially fortunate to have had the chance to record an oral history with Marcel in June 2023, so we have a record of his life and career in his own words. Marcel was among the last of his generation of modernist architects in Vermont, and he will be missed.”

The following obituary was published in the Burlington Free Press, commemorating his life and accomplishments.

Marcel Beaudin sailed off into the Lake Champlain sunset on Friday, March 29, 2024, passing away at the age of 95 years and 11 days.

Born in Barre, Vermont in 1929, Marcel was the eldest of the four first-generation children of Armand Beaudin, a stone cutter, and Eva (LeFevre) Beaudin, a seamstress, both of whom were from the Sherbrooke area of Quebec. Marcel graduated from Spaulding High School, where he demonstrated his aptitude for design by working as a junior draftsman for a monument fabricator.

After high school, Marcel moved to New York City with the intent of enrolling in college, and was initially employed as a junior designer of tombstones and mausoleums. Planning to be a sculptor, he eventually enrolled at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, inspired to study architecture following a chance encounter with the Swiss-French architect and designer Le Corbusier.

Marcel married first wife Vera in 1948 and in 1957 built a home of his design on Shelburne Point where they raised their five children, until moving to Burlington in 1970.

Marcel began his private architectural practice, Beaudin and Associates, in Burlington in the late 1950’s and practiced for almost 70 years. Among Marcel’s score of architectural projects were residences, public buildings, and places of worship. Burlington is home to many of these, including the iconic Community Boathouse. He was a dedicated planning commission member, helping shape the development and landscape of Burlington and its waterfront. Marcel attempted to retire at age 90 in 2019, actively consulting in the years that followed.

In addition to his work, Marcel’s passion was sailing. He sailed both competitively and for pleasure on Lake Champlain and enjoyed regular excursions to the Bahamas and beyond, joined by his wife Ruth and friends, old and new.

Sailboat racing became a family mission and he competed with his close friends and his sons regularly on both Lake Champlain and in regattas from Newport to Key West. His proudest competitive sailing achievement was setting the record for the most victories in the Lake Champlain Yacht Club Ladies Cup Race, with a total of six wins, always with at least one of his sons on board. He was particularly proud that in the wins of 2010 and 2017, when the three generation crew included his grandsons.

Marcel’s life project was the co-founding, in 1994, of the Burlington Community Sailing Center. Originally housed in Burlington’s abandoned Moran Plant, the resource truly came to life with the design and construction of the new Sailing Center, which was completed in 2018. Though Marcel designed the building, he would insist on acknowledging that it was a team effort that included long-time colleagues who shared his vision and commitment to giving everyone, regardless of income, a chance to enjoy the lake through sailing. His dream for this vital local institution now carries his passion for sailing to future generations.

Marcel took on other good works, because they “needed doing.” The most remarkable and recent example is acting as consulting architect for the Lost Mural Project, saving a hidden artwork from destruction. His contributions to engineering the moving and installation of the restored mural in the lobby of Burlington’s Ohavi Zedek Synagogue has facilitated yet another Vermont landmark.

Marcel is predeceased by his first wife and mother to his four children, Vera Beaudin Saeedpour, his second wife Ruth (Binch) Beaudin, his son Marc Beaudin, and his brother Conrad Beaudin.

Marcel is survived by his children, Paul Beaudin (Wendy), Rebecca Beaudin (Christopher Carlson), Adam Beaudin and Jeb Beaudin, his grandchildren Jonah and Aaron Beaudin, as well as step-children Sheryl Shaker (Ted) and, and their children Molly, Grace and Will, and Beth Alpert and children, Sam (Emily) and Rebecca. He is also survived by his sister Suzanne Beaudin and his brother Roger Beaudin (Jeannie Boudah).

A celebration of Marcel’s long, accomplished life will be held in August at the Community Sailing Center. In lieu of flowers, donations in Marcel’s name can be sent to the Community Sailing Center or to the Howard Center’s Westview House, in honor of Marcel’s late son Marc.