In 1907, in association with W. M. Riggs, Lee took on his first design project at Clemson, an expansion of one of the college barracks.
Architect, educator. For more than fifty years Rudolph E. Lee was virtually synonymous with the teaching and practice of architecture at Clemson College. He was born on March 12, 1876, in Anderson, the son of Thomas and Louise Lee. He completed two years at the South Carolina Military Academy (the Citadel) before transferring to Clemson in 1893. Lee received a B.S. in engineering with the college’s first graduating class in 1896. By 1898 he was instructor in drawing in the engineering department at Clemson. After postgraduate work at Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania, he was promoted to associate professor and placed at the head of the Drawing and Designing Division. He married Mary Louise Eggleston, and his only child, a daughter, was born in 1902.
In 1907, in association with W. M. Riggs, Lee took on his first design project at Clemson, an expansion of one of the college barracks. Four years later Lee was elected the official architect of Clemson College. In 1912 he became a full professor and was placed in charge of the first course in architectural engineering. In 1913 Lee received his first prestigious commission: designing a new Young Men’s Christian Association for Clemson (later renamed Holtzendorf Hall). The work remains his most complete and successful architectural design. While its exterior has a traditional Italian Renaissance style, many interior details were daringly contemporary, including a curved, cantilevered balcony and open steel pipe railings.
In 1915 Lee involved himself in a statewide campaign for better schools and school safety. His activities led to his appointment to the State Board of Architectural Examiners, a position he held for more than thirty years. He served as chairman of the board from 1933 to 1948.
In 1925 Lee renovated Sikes Hall to serve as the college library, designed the Sloan Store in downtown Clemson, and remodeled Holy Trinity Church. Between 1927 and 1939 Lee designed Riggs Hall (1927–1928), the Fike Field House (1929–1932), the new barracks (1935–1936), Long Hall (1936–1937), and the J. E. Sirrine Textile Building (1936–1937). These buildings represent Lee’s mature style, with symmetry in plan and details including multicolored brick, limestone banding and sills, wide eaves with brackets and concealed gutters, and orange tile hip roofs. Just below the eaves Lee created elaborate mosaics that are a distinctive hallmark of his work. The five buildings define the character of Clemson and have been consciously emulated in several new building projects.
In the 1930s Lee also built the architecture program at Clemson. He had received the first master of architecture degree in 1928 and was referred to as the head of the Department of Architecture in 1935. He established a strong relationship with the state chapter of the American Institute of Architects, which led to the formation of the Clemson Architectural Foundation in 1940.
Lee retired in 1948. In 1955 he was made an emeritus member of the American Institute of Architects. The gallery in the School of Architecture was named for him just a few days before his death on October 23, 1959. He was buried in Christ Church Cemetery, Greenville. In 1966 the entire new architecture building was named for Lee.
Bainbridge, Robert W. “Rudolph E. Lee and Architecture at Clemson.” In Campus Preservation and Clemson Historic Resources. Clemson, S.C.: Clemson University College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities, Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture, 1995.
Bryan, Wright. Clemson: An Informal History of the University, 1889–1979. Columbia, S.C.: R. L. Bryan, 1979.
Wells, John E., and Robert E. Dalton. The South Carolina Architects, 1885–1935: A Biographical Directory. Richmond, Va.: New South Archi- tectural Press, 1992.