William Douglas Lee

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William Douglas Lee
William Douglas Lee in business suit.jpg
William Douglas Lee
ChildrenDouglas Everett Lee
BuildingsChateau Marmont El Royale Catalina Swimwear Building Textile Center Building Garment Capitol Building
Chateau Marmont - Built 1929
El Royale - Built 1929
El Royale - Built 1929

William Douglas Lee (1894–1965) was an architect and designer in the early 20th century whose career focused on designing large Neoclassic, Gothic Revival, Renaissance Revival, and Beaux-Arts style manufacturing buildings in downtown Los Angeles, as well as other historically notable works such as the Chateau Marmont[1] and the El Royale[2][3] apartments.

Early work[edit]

William Douglas Lee's first major industrial and manufacturing facility design was The Catalina Swimwear Building (now The Catalina) located at 443 South San Pedro Street in Los Angeles. The Catalina Swimwear Building was constructed in 1923, less than two years after Lee began his independent practice, and was the headquarters for Catalina Swimwear. The building is of reinforced concrete construction, with a traditional Neoclassic façade sheathed in brick. Its construction is documented by City of Los Angeles Building Permit #38140, issued for a six-story building with a concrete frame on the southwest corner of San Pedro and Winston Streets.

Partnership with Florence Casler[edit]

Lee gained during the 1920s when his idea to transform the city's aesthetic with real estate developer Florence Casler took hold. Together Lee and Casler erected what Florence termed a "utopian commercial area"[4] centered on Pico Boulevard and Maple Avenue. Between 1924 and 1929 they erected many major specialized industrial buildings including the Textile Center Building, the Allied Crafts Building, the Bendix Building, the Printing Center, the Graphic Arts Building, the Garment Capitol Building, the Elias-Katz Shoe Factory (now: Downtown Women's Center) the Furniture Exchange Building, and the Merchants Exchange Building.

Textile Center Building - Built 1926
Textile Center Building - Built 1926

Lee shared Casler's love of modern design enhanced with revival accenting and molding in terra cotta and stone. Even after their partnership Lee became responsible for designing some of the most iconic buildings in Los Angeles, including the Chateau Marmont and the El Royale apartments.

Later work[edit]

William Douglas Lee and his son, Douglas Everett Lee, were responsible for the design and construction of Lee Tower located at 5455 Wilshire Boulevard. "It was among the first skyscrapers built in Los Angeles after the height limit ordinance of 150 feet was relaxed in 1957..."[5] Completed in 1961, The Lee Tower introduced the appearance of the modern skyscraper in Los Angeles.[6]

The Lee Tower was the first skyscraper to exceed the 150-foot height limit following the repeal of the height restriction by the Los Angeles City Council. Lee far surpassed the limit by constructing 280 feet up, with a total of 21 stories. The Lee Tower's steel-frame, glass-curtain wall design is very different from the period-revival designs of Lee's earlier career.


  1. ^ "PCAD - Chateau Marmont Hotel, West Hollywood, CA". pcad.lib.washington.edu. Retrieved 2016-05-16.
  2. ^ "El Royale Apartments". www.elroyaleapartments.com. Retrieved 2016-05-16.
  3. ^ Meares, Hadley (2015-06-02). "The Story of the El Royale, the Most Glamorous Apartment Building in LA". Curbed LA. Retrieved 2016-05-16.
  4. ^ Meares, Hadley (2015-03-12). "Meet the Powerhouse Female Developer of 1920s Downtown LA". Curbed LA. Retrieved 2016-05-16.
  5. ^ Wallach, Ruth (2013-01-01). Miracle Mile in Los Angeles: History and Architecture. The History Press. ISBN 9781609495930.
  6. ^ "Tower Building Permit Issued". Los Angeles Times. May 30, 1959. p. A8.