Almost thirty years ago a local plumbing company gave the RCHS more than thirty sets of blueprints for homes designed by Stanton P. Lee. Longtime library volunteer Barbara Urban began to study them over ten years later, prompted in part by local residents who had received blueprints when they purchased their Stanton P. Lee-designed homes and came to the RCHS seeking more information about him. More blueprints, this time of his commercial work, came on the market six years ago and were purchased for the collection. This post describes just part of what Barbara has learned about Lee.
Stanton P. Lee was born August 7,1875 in Albany to Charles and Emily J. Ocumpaugh Lee. Lee’s father was a carpenter and cabinetmaker. The family moved to Troy in 1880, living on Oakwood Ave by 1885. Lee attended Troy public schools and the Troy Academy.
At the time, men wishing to be architects studied civil engineering, then apprenticed with architects. Lee followed this path, studying design and architecture in Philadelphia. Upon his return to Troy, he was hired by M.F. Cummings Sons Architects, a prominent local firm that had designed many important buildings in Troy and the region. In 1902 Lee branched out on his own. Over the years his offices were located in several places downtown, including the Times Building, the Cannon Building, Proctor’s Theater, 55 Third Street and 257 Broadway.
During his fifty year career, Lee designed and planned both commercial and residential projects. Commercial work included the School 16 Annex, St. Mark’s Methodist Church in Lansingburgh, firehouses for both Eagle Mills and Wynantskill, the Troy Cooperative Bank, and in 1934 the Rensselaer County Courthouse Annex.
During World War I he was hired by the US government to plan 300 houses and a 250- room hotel for the Watervliet Arsenal. The 1918 armistice ended that project. Later the government hired him to plan the blockhouse and visitor center at the Saratoga Battle Field. The blockhouse is now at Stillwater and the visitor center has since been replaced.
Stanton P. Lee’s own home at 31 Lakewood Place, Troy
In 1905 Lee married Emily Downs of Wilmington, Delaware. They had two sons, Stanton P., Jr and Robert Bennett Downs. In 1909 Lee designed his own home on Lakewood Place off Pinewoods Avenue in the Colonial Revival style. As this new neighborhood was settled, many owners hired Lee as their architect. All of these homes survive. The Maple Avenue area also has a number of Stanton P. Lee homes.
Stanton P. Lee designed both commercial and residential buildings for many prominent Trojans, like William B. Frear of Frears Department Store (RCHS Collection)
This was just the beginning of Lee designs for the new residential neighborhoods of Troy. As the city moved “up the hill”, landscape architects such as Garnett Baltimore designed parklike developments. One, called Parkway Villa, was located between Burdett Avenue and 15th Street, with Peoples Avenue to the north and Tibbitts Avenue to the south. Real estate ads at the time stated that Lee was the architect of choice, offering a variety of styles: Bungalow, English Cottage, Arts and Craft, and Spanish Colonial. Colonial Revival style homes, for which he is probably best known, also are scattered in the area. The homes were built from 1913 through the 1930’s. A few homes have been broken up into apartments and offices, especially those on 15th Street, but about 75% are intact as residences.
Three Stanton P. Lee homes on Peoples’ Avenue
Drawing for the conversion of 10 Washington Place into apartments
Lee also designed the division of big homes into apartments. He created the conversions of 10 Washington Place and the James J. Childs home at 166 2nd Avenue. In the 1930’s Lee was hired by downtown merchants to update the 19th century facades to the Deco/Moderne style popular in the 1920’s. William Frear hired him to redo the display windows of Frears Department Store. His work can be found in Cohoes, Averill Park, Pittstown, Loudonville, and Hoosick Falls.
Stanton P. Lee died in September 1953 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery. Stanton P. Lee, Jr., followed his father into the business. City directories described him as a specifications writer and draftsman. He lived in the family home on Lakewood until his death 1983. Robert, the second son, graduated from Troy High and Union College, then entered the Army, making it his career. He retired to Myrtle Beach where he died in 2009.