Charles W. Lea Jr.

Lea, Charles W. Jr.

(1903 – 1990)

Charles Winthrop Lea, Jr. was born in Tacoma in 1903, but grew up in Seattle. He received his education at the University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, and New York University. Before returning to Tacoma in the early 1930s, he worked as a draftsman in various architecture firms in Philadelphia and for the firm of Delano & Aldrich in New York.

In 1937, Lea formed a partnership with Charles Pearson and John Greenway Richards. Together, Lea, Pearson & Richards prospered for 50+ years designing a variety of buildings in the Tacoma area and beyond. The firm specialized in the design of banks, churches, schools, and high-end residences, most of which were built in the Tacoma area.  At least 18 schools designed by the firm, the majority of which were built in the 1950s. Lea himself was widely known for his residential projects and was praised by his peers for his special talent in the use of Colonial themes.

Notable projects include several homes around Steilacoom Lake in 1940; the Woodbrook Hunt Club (1938) in Tacoma; the Tacoma Goodwill Industries Building (1965); and the Swasey Branch of the Tacoma Public Library (1960). Known banking projects include the National Bank of Washington (1949) in Chehalis; the National Bank of Washington (1950) in Parkland; Tacoma Savings & Loan Assoc. (1956); the Bank of Washington Plaza (1970, with SOM) in Tacoma and United Mutual Savings Bank (1973) in Tacoma. Churches projects include Central Lutheran Church (1957); Trinity Lutheran Church (1958) in Parkland; and Kilworth Chapel at the University of Puget Sound (1966).

After being in business for more than 50 years, in 1984 the firm disbanded. At the time, the Southwest Washington chapter of the AIA recognized the firm as one of the longest architectural partnerships in the Puget Sound. The three partners retired. Lea passed away in Tacoma on April 18, 1990.

– Caroline Swope & Michael C Houser

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