The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff tell us about Dr. Solomon Lee, a resident who has made a lasting impression on the community. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.
Dr. Solomon S. Lee (1871-1940) was the grandson of Vergennes pioneers, Solomon Lee, and his son J. Edwin Lee who came to Lowell in 1868. J. Edwin Lee’s farm was located on Foreman Road and he was one of Lowell’s builders and also had a meat business. He built the ‘Lee Block.’ The Lee Block contained five storefronts and was located from the Main Street Inn west to the corner. The easternmost storefront contained his business, J. E. Lee Meats. He had to rebuild the Lee Block twice because of destructive fires, in 1884 and again in 1906. He was known as the Father of the Lowell Lighting and Power Plant.
S. S. Lee was born in Lowell on October 27, 1871 to Edwin and Helen Boyce Lee. He attended the University of Michigan Medical School in 1898 and became a Doctor. Dr. Lee began his practice in Calumet working with miners. He became interested in developing copper and other metal mines and invested in those stocks. The stocks did very well. He and his wife, Irene, moved back to Lowell in 1912 and practiced here until his retirement. He was well known and trusted by his patients, in whom he always took a personal interest. He was characterized as precise, accurate, sociable, and pleasant.
Dr. Lee served as Health officer during the Spanish Influenza of 1918. He guided the City of Lowell, along with Lowell and Vergennes Townships through that devastating time. He suggested preventative measures citizens could take to attempt to prevent the spread of the disease.
The Lee family was known for their interest in civic affairs. Dr. Lee served on the Village Council as did his father Edwin. Upon his death, Dr. Lee’s will listed personal disbursements and then the rest of his estate was left to the village of Lowell “to be used in any way the Village Council may see fit for the general benefit of the village and I would suggest that a part of the same, or said residue, be used for the gradual improvement of Recreation Park located in the said Village of Lowell.”
The investment from the fund was used for general maintenance of the Lowell park system. In 1951, earnings from the investment were added to Showboat revenues and a building was constructed at Recreation Park to be used for 4-H exhibits, stock sales and indoor ice skating. The building was later named the “Foreman Building” in honor of the late Ernest C. Foreman ‘North America’s foremost poultry-man’ who had been chairman of the building project.
The Fire Department was blessed by Dr. Solomon Lee and the city by extension. With funding from the Lee fund in 1946, a new 1,000 gallon per minute pumper was purchased. The other engine was only able to pump 500 gallons per minute. The engine, appropriately named ‘S.S. Lee’ made the Lowell Fire Department one of the best equipped departments around.
The Lee fund has been used to bless many of the Lowell area parks, including renovations at Richards Park, the King Swimming Pool, and it contributed over $125,000 to assist in the creation of Creekside Park on Gee Drive.
The Lee family and specifically Dr. Solomon Lee left quite a legacy here in Lowell.