James T. Lee

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James Thomas Lee
James Thomas Lee.jpg
James Thomas Aloysius Lee

(1877-10-02)October 2, 1877
DiedJanuary 3, 1968(1968-01-03) (aged 90)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting placeGate of Heaven Cemetery, Hawthorne, NY
Alma materCity College of New York
Columbia University
Columbia Law School
OccupationLawyer, banker, real estate developer
Margaret Merritt
(m. 1903; her death 1943)
Children3, including Janet
Parent(s)James Lee
Mary Teresa Norton Lee
RelativesJackie Kennedy (granddaughter)
Lee Radziwill (granddaughter)
Janet Auchincloss Rutherfurd (granddaughter)

James Thomas Aloysius Lee (October 2, 1877 – January 3, 1968)[1] was an American lawyer, banker, and real estate investor who was the maternal grandfather of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwiłł.

Early life[edit]

Lee was born in Manhattan on October 2, 1877. He was the only surviving son and eldest of ten children, six of whom lived to adulthood, born to Dr. James Lee and Mary Teresa (née Norton) Lee, both children of Irish immigrants. His mother was brought up in Troy, New York,[2] His father was born in Newark, NJ. He met his wife when they were both teaching in Troy, NY. His father received his M.D. at Bellevue College in 1880 at and became a doctor and later, district superintendent of New York City Public Schools.

In 1898, after a year spent studying violin, Lee enrolled in the City College of New York to study engineering. In two years, he had joined Delta Kappa Epsilon and was working as a law clerk earning $6-a-week. In 1901, he graduated from City College and then enrolled in a master's program at Columbia University in political science and economics. He graduated with an A.M. degree in 1902 and then began law school, graduating from Columbia Law School in 1903.[3]


After graduating law school and serving as a clerk, Lee then opened his own law practice. Aware of the impending construction of the Seventh Avenue Subway, he began buying property along the proposed route which tripled in value after the Subway became a fact.[4] By 1910, his career was focused primarily on real estate development, and was eventually responsible for building more than two hundred residential and commercial buildings.[5] His company, of which he was president, was the real-estate focused Shelton Holding Corporation.[1]

By 1908, Lee and his partner, Charles R. Fleischmann, built the 12-story Peter Stuyvesant apartments at the corner of 98th and Riverside Drive, designed by William L. Rouse.[5]

In 1910, while living at 669 West End Avenue near 93rd Street,[5] he built 998 Fifth Avenue, another luxury cooperative that was designed by the McKim, Mead & White architectural firm and was across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[1]

Between 1913 and 1920, he built a series of office buildings near Grand Central Terminal, the Central Building on 45th Street, the Berkeley Building on 44th Street and the National Association Building on 43rd Street, all designed by Starrett & van Vleck.[5] In 1923, he built the Shelton Hotel (today the New York Marriott East Side) at 49th Street and Lexington Avenue, designed by Arthur Loomis Harmon, which at the time was the tallest hotel in the world at 24 stories.[5]

In 1928, he was elected to the board of the Chase National Bank and staying with them until 1943 when he began serving as president and chairman of the board of the Central Savings Bank.[1]

In 1929, he began building 740 Park Avenue, a luxury cooperative apartment building on Park Avenue between East 71st and 72nd Streets designed by Rosario Candela and Arthur Loomis Harmon[6] of Manhattan, New York City, which has been described as "the most luxurious and powerful residential building in New York City".[7][8]

Personal life[edit]

On October 7, 1903, Lee was married to teacher Margaret Merritt (1880–1943),[9] who had been born in New York City to Irish immigrants from County Clare, Thomas Merritt and Mary (née Curry) Merritt.[3] Together, they were the parents of:

Lee joined East Hampton's Maidstone Club in 1925.[3]

His wife died unexpectedly, at age 63, at their daughter Marion's home in Hewlett Bay Park in February 1943.[9] She and her husband had been estranged for many years, but remained married. Lee died at his home, 580 Park Avenue in Manhattan, on January 3, 1968.[22][2] After a funeral at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer in Manhattan, he was buried alongside his parents at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, NY.[1]


Through his eldest daughter, Marion, he was the grandfather of two girls, Joan Ryan (1929–1997), and Mary Lee Ryan (1931–2017), the wife of Biltmore owner. He also, had three grandsons through daughter Marion. Through his daughter Janet, he was the grandfather of three girls, First Lady of the United States Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (1929–1994), the wife of John F. Kennedy,[23] and Aristotle Onassis[24]; Caroline Lee Bouvier (1933–2019), the wife Michael Temple Canfield, Prince Stanisław Radziwiłł,[25] Herbert Ross; and Janet Jennings Auchincloss (1945–1985), who married Lewis Polk Rutherfurd.[26] He had one grandson through daughter Janet, named James Lee Auchincloss. Through his daughter Margaret Winifred, he was the grandfather of Anne d'Olier and Winifred d'Olier, who married prominent investment banker Anthony Coats Brown in 1962.[27]


  1. ^ a b c d e "JAMES T. LEE, 90, REALTY MAN, DIES Lawyer Was Early Investor in Luxury Apartments" (PDF). The New York Times. January 4, 1968. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "James Lee, Jackie's Kin, Dies at 90 in New York City". The Troy Record. January 5, 1968. p. 25. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Pottker, Jane (2001). Janet and Jackie: The Story of a Mother and Her Daughter, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. p. 53. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  4. ^ Spoto, Donald (2000). Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life. New York: St. Martin's Paperbacks. p. 5. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e Gray, Christopher (March 12, 1995). "Streetscapes/Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's Grandfather; Quality Developer With a Legacy of Fine Buildings". The New York Times. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  6. ^ "740 Park Avenue". Emporis. Emporis GMBH. 2000–2014. Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  7. ^ Zeveloff, Julie (December 29, 2011). "740 Park Avenue: Inside The Most Powerful Apartment Building In New York". Business Insider. Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  8. ^ Gross, Michael. "Where the Boldface Bunk", The New York Times (March 11, 2004). Accessed October 8, 2007.
  9. ^ a b "Deaths" (PDF). The New York Times. February 27, 1943. p. 13. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  10. ^ "MRS. JOHN J. RYAN JR" (PDF). The New York Times. May 11, 1947. p. 60. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  11. ^ "JOHN J. RYAN JR" (PDF). The New York Times. May 15, 1963. p. 39. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  12. ^ "MARION LEE BRIDE OF JOHN J. RYAN; Ceremony in Church of St. Vincent Ferrer Performed by Very Rev. W. G. Moran, O. P." (PDF). The New York Times. January 21, 1927. p. 8. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  13. ^ "Janet Lee Auchincloss Morris, 81". The New York Times. July 24, 1989. p. 11. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  14. ^ "JOHN BOUVIER 3D, BROKER, 66, DIES; Retired Investment Adviser Was a Member of Stock Exchange for 34 Years". The New York Times. August 4, 1957. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  15. ^ "JANET N. LEE BRIDE OF J.V. BOUVIER 3D; 500 Guests at Ceremony in St. Philomena's Church, East Hampton, L.I." The New York Times. July 8, 1928. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  16. ^ "MRS. J. L. BOUVIER IS WED IN VIRGINIA; Becomes the Bride of Lieut. Hugh D. Auchincloss. U.S.N., at His Country Home". The New York Times. June 23, 1942. p. 24.
  17. ^ "Notes on People". The New York Times. October 26, 1979. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  18. ^ "d'OLIER". The Philadelphia Inquirer. November 29, 1991. p. 46. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  19. ^ "DINNER DANCE GIVEN FOR ENGAGED COUPLES Winifred Lee and Franklin D'Olier Jr. and Frances Frear and J.C. Ryan Honored" (PDF). The New York Times. April 16, 1936. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  20. ^ "MISS WINIFRED LEE PICKS ATTENDANTS | Rev. Walter Moran Will Wed Her to Franklin D'Olier Jr. in Ceremony at Pierre. | NUPTIALS SET FOR APRIL 17 | Mrs. John J. Ryan Jr. and Mrs. John V. Bouvier 3d to Serve as Matrons of Honor" (PDF). The New York Times. April 1, 1936. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  21. ^ "MARGARET W. LEE BECOMES A BRIDE; Rev. Walter O. Moran, O. P., Marries Her to Franklin D'Olier Jr. at Pierre. | ESCORTED BY HER FATHER | Mrs. John J. Ryan Jr. and Mrs. John V. Bouvier 3d Matrons of Honor for Their Sister" (PDF). The New York Times. April 18, 1936. p. 12. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  22. ^ "JAMES T. LEE". New York Daily News. January 4, 1968. p. 67. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  23. ^ "Notables Attend Senator's Wedding; SENATOR KENNEDY WEDS IN NEWPORT". The New York Times. September 13, 1953. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  24. ^ Times, Special To the New York (March 16, 1975). "Aristotle Onassis Is Dead Of Pneumonia in France". The New York Times. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  25. ^ "For Princess Lee Radziwill, It's the End of a Marriage" People, July 29, 1974
  26. ^ "Janet Rutherfurd Dies at 39; Half-Sister of Mrs. Onassis". The New York Times. March 21, 1985. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  27. ^ "Father Escorts Winifred d'Olier At Her Wedding; Briarcliff Alumna Wed to Anthony C. Brown of Securities Firm" (PDF). The New York Times. October 7, 1962. p. 89. Retrieved March 19, 2019.

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