King Lee Family


King Lee

King 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.

He 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 League. In 1932 King Lee opened the Imperial House on the corner of Riverside Drive and Ferry Street. As the children grew 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.