Lee (Lee Thung) was one of the most influential merchants
and community leaders in Windsor, Ontario Canada. He was
born in 1877 in the Chinese province of Canton. King Lee
left China at age seventeen for America, to try to earn
a better living overseas. He sailed to North America and
arrived at the port city of Vancouver in Canada on September
26, 1894. After two years in Vancouver, King Lee left
for Brantford, Ontario. He established himself in business
as a merchant. After six years he moved to Chatham to
open his first cafe called the ‘Royale’. In
1911, King Lee left Chatham to establish the ‘Savoy’ on
Sandwich Street West in Windsor. It was during this time
that he went back to China to marry Lily Wong. In 1915
he brought his wife and daughter Lundy to Canada. Lily
Wong was one of the first Chinese women in the Windsor
Detroit area. King ran the Savoy for eight years before
opening ‘King’s Café’ on Pitt
St. It closed after four years.
leased the ‘Lincoln House’ on Ouellette Ave.
until the Depression came and he lost everything. In the
meantime, King Lee’s family grew. Alfred was born
in 1915, followed by Peter in 1919, Edward in 1921, Ben
in 1924, May in 1926 and Jimmy, in 1929. In 1919 The Detroit
News reported that Lundy, Alfred and Peter were the only
Chinese children on the border. King Lee established the
Chinese Benevolent Association in the early years to provide
support to the Chinese immigrants coming to the city.
He became the President of the local Chinese
Nationalist Society in 1924 and served on the executive
board of the
Border Cities Association in 1925 and in 1931 became an
executive of the Eastern Canada division of the Nationalist
1932 King Lee opened the Imperial House on the corner
of Riverside Drive and Ferry Street. As the
older, they joined in the daily running of the business.
During the second world war, King’s
sons Peter, Edward and Ben went overseas. When they returned
home, King Lee had fallen ill. He died in November, 1946.
The four brothers Peter, Edward, Ben and Jimmy decided
to keep the business. Alfred decided to go to Boston,
Massachusetts and open a restaurant of his own. Edward
became a silent partner when he went into the marine business
in the early 1950s. The Imperial Tavern and Edgewater
Marine are now closed, but the majority of the extended
family still resides in Windsor.