S. Charles Lee

S. Charles Lee

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S. Charles Lee

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S. Charles Lee (September 5, 1899 - January 27, 1990) was an American architect recognized as one of the most prolific and distinguished motion picture theater designers on the West Coast.


Early life

Simeon Charles Levi was born in Chicago in 1899 to American-born parents of German-Jewish ancestry, Julius and Hattie (Stiller) Levi. He grew up going to vaudeville theatres, nickelodeons,and early movie houses. A tinkerer interested in mechanical things, Lee built three motorcars as a teenager. His interest in mechanics led him to Lake Technical High School in Chicago, where he graduated in 1916.


While in high school in 1915, he worked after school in the office of Chicago architect Henry Newhouse, a family friend who specialized in theater design: small motion picture houses, nickelodeons and remodeling storefronts into theaters. 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, where he was exposed to the principles of the École des Beaux-Arts which are reflected in his later work.

While in Chicago, Lee worked for Rapp & Rapp, a highly regarded Chicago architectural firm well known for...
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