Scope and Content
Organization and Arrangement
Related Oral Histories
Title: S. Charles Lee Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1919-1962
Collection number: 1384
Lee, S. Charles (1899-1990)
Extent: 28 boxes (14 linear ft.) 172 oversize folders
114 oversize boxes
University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.
Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
Abstract: S. Charles Lee (1899-1990) graduated from Technical College, Chicago in 1918 and the Armour Institute of Technology in 1921.
He relocated to Los Angeles in 1922 where he designed numerous theaters and office buildings (1927-40), developed the Los
Angeles International Industrial District (1948) and built several theaters in Mexico City (1942). The Collection contains
drawings, renderings, blueprints, photographs, and surveys relating to Lee's professional career including his work as a developer
and the most prolific architect of art deco movie palaces in Los Angeles.
Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library, Department
of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.
Restrictions on Use and Reproduction
Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Collections, UCLA. All requests for permission to publish or
quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf
of the Dept. of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission
of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.
Restrictions on Access
COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Advance notice required for access.
Provenance/Source of Acquisition
- S. Charles Lee bequest, 1990
- Gift of George E. Keiter, 1990 and 1995
[Identification of item], S. Charles Lee Papers (1919-1962) (Collection 1384). Department of Special Collections, Charles
E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.
UCLA Catalog Record ID
S. Charles Lee was born in Chicago on September 5, 1899; graduated, Technical College, Chicago, 1918; senior architect, South
Park Board, City of Chicago, 1918; U.S. Navy, 1918-20; graduated, Armour Institute of Technology, Art Institute of Chicago,
1921; moved to Los Angeles, 1921; opened architectural office, Los Angeles, 1922; designed and built Tower Theatre (1927),
Fox Wilshire Theatre and Los Angeles Theatre (1929), Max Factor buildings, Hollywood (1931-35), Fox Florence Theatre (1931),
Municipal Light, Water and Power Buildings, Los Angeles (1934-35), Bruin Theatre (1937), Tower Bowl, San Diego (1940), and
built several theaters in Mexico City (1942); honored by Royal Institute of British Architects at International Exhibit of
Contemporary Architects, London, 1934; began partnership with Sam Hayden, 1948; began development of Los Angeles International
Airport Industrial District, 1948; established S. Charles Lee Foundation, 1962; named Vice Consul to Beverly Hills!
by President of Panama, 1963; established S. Charles Lee Chair, UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, 1986;
died in 1990.
Born Simeon Charles Levi in Chicago in 1899, Lee was the son of American-born parents of German-Jewish ancestry, Julius and
Hattie (Stiller) Levi. Lee (who later changed his name from Levi) grew up in the Chicago of Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan,
and Frank Lloyd Wright. Lee's own favorite building was Sullivan's Carson Pirie Scott Department Store. He also grew up with
the evolving motion picture; he went to vaudeville theatres, nickolodeons,and early movie houses. A tinkerer interested in
mechanical things, Lee built three motorcars as a teenager.
His interest in mechanics took him to Lake Technical High School in Chicago. He started out in architecture in 1915 by working
after school in the office of Chicago architect Henry Newhouse, a family friend. Newhouse specialized in theatre design: small
motion picture houses, nickolodeons and remodeling storefronts into theatres. After graduation in 1916, Lee attended Chicago
Technical College, graduating with honors in 1918. His first job was as architect for the South Park Board of the City of
Chicago. During World War I he enlisted in the Navy. After his discharge in 1920, he entered the Armour Institute of Technology
to study architecture. The course followed the principles of the Ecole des Beaux Arts and this training is reflected in the
composition and imagery of his later drawings. It is also reflected in his own emphasis on the plan as the driving force of
the design. This practical approach would serve him well in his many commercial designs.
Other influences on the young architect were Sullivan's lectures in his architecture classes and Wright's work, particularly
Midway Gardens and Wright's house and studio in Oak Park. Lee was also impressed by the 1922 Chicago Tribune tower competition,
which juxtaposed historicism with modernism. Lee considered himself a modernist, and his career revealed both the Beaux Arts
discipline and emphasis on planning and the modernist functionalism and freedom of form (Valentine, p.32). He was also a pragmatist,
designing his buildings to support and enhance the commercial ventures they housed.
||Born Chicago, Illinois.
||Built full-scale gas-powered automobile.
||Licensed radio operator.
||Graduated Technical College, Chicago, with honors.
||Senior architect, South Park Board, City of Chicago.
||Served United States Navy, Great Lakes Training Station.
||Graduated Armour Institute of Technology, Art Institute, Chicago.
||Worked in office of Rapp and Rapp, Chicago.
||Came to Los Angeles.
||Licensed by State of Illinois to practice architecture.
||Opened architectural office in Los Angeles.
||Designed and built houses, apartment buildings, hotels.
||Married Miriam (Midge) Zelda Aisenstein, Los Angeles.
||Designed and built Tower Theatre, Los Angeles.
||Daughter Constance born, Los Angeles.
||Designed and built Hollywood-Western Building for Motion Picture Producers Association, Hollywood.
||Designed and built Fox Wilshire Theatre, Beverly Hills.
||Designed and built Los Angeles Theatre, Los Angeles.
||Designed and built Fox Florence Theatre, Beverly Hills.
||Designed and built Max Factor Buildings, Hollywood.
||Designed dozens of commercial buildings and remodellings.
||Honored by Royal Institute of British Architects at International Exhibit of Contemporary Architects, London.
||Designed and built Municipal Light, Water and Power Buildings, Los Angeles.
||Licensed airplane pilot.
||Designed and built scores of small theatres throughout California and elsewhere in United States.
||Designed and built Bruin Theatre, Los Angeles.
||Designed and built Academy Theatre, Inglewood.
||Designed and built Twoer Bowl, San Diego.
||Built several theatres, Mexico City.
||Began partnership with Sam Hayden.
||Began development of International Airport Industrial District.
||Built dozens of small factories throughout Los Angeles.
||Began serving on Board of Directors, Braille Institute (treasurer).
||Wife died, Los Angeles.
||Established S. Charles Lee Foundation.
||Named Vice Consul to Beverly Hills by President of Panama.
||Married Hylda Moss, Buenos Aires.
||Received Presidential Medal, Order of Vasco Nuñez Balboa, Panama's highest order of merit.
||Named Consul to Beverly Hills from Panama.
||Established S. Charles Lee Chair, UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Los Angeles.
- Biography of S. Charles Lee issued by Mr. Lee's office; John M. Grenner, Ed.D.
- Interview with Mr. Lee, December 14, 1984
Men of California 1925-26
- S. Charles Lee Collection, UCLA
- Maggie Valentine, Conversations with Mr. Lee, 1984-86
Scope and Content
Collection contains drawings, renderings, blueprints, photographs, and surveys relating to the professional career of architect
S. Charles Lee. Most of the collection reflects his work as a developer and the most prolific architect of art deco movie
palaces in Los Angeles.
Organization and Arrangement
Arranged in the following series:
- Photographs (14 Boxes).
- Surveys (7 Boxes).
- Negatives (7 Boxes).
- Blueprints (114 Oversize boxes)
- Drawings, plans, renderings (172 Oversize folders).
Arranged alphabetically by client and project name.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Lee, S. Charles--Archives.
Architects--California--Los Angeles--Archival resources.
Architecture, Modern--20th century--California.
Motion picture theaters--Design and construction.
Genres and Forms of Material
The Show Started on the Sidewalk [oral history transcript] / S. Charles Lee, interviewee. UCLA Oral History Department interview, 1985-86. Available at Department
of Special Collections, UCLA.
Related Oral Histories
The following oral histories are available through the UCLA Library Center for Oral History Research: