Lewis, Martin & Associates
Early History of the Architectural Firm
In 1954 with his degree in hand from USC's School of Architecture, Ward Deems joined the Los Angeles firm of AC Martin (partners Albert C. Martin, Jr. and J. Edward Martin). William ("Bill") S. Lewis Jr., having also recently graduated from the same program (in 1953), joined the firm shortly thereafter.
Ward Deems was appointed an Associate of the Firm in 1958 while Bill Lewis served as lead designer on several projects. During the years 1958-59, Deems explored the potential of opening an office in San Diego - then a cheaper, slower-paced city surviving on tourism and military spending. When Ward advised the Martins of his plan to move south they saw in this an opportunity to expand their operation. Together they decided to open a San Diego office.
In April 1959, a corporate agreement was signed to launch Deems-Martin Associates. At the time, Bill Lewis was completing the design of the May Company store in Mission Valley and agreed to join Deems in launching the new company. With financial and brand support from the AC Martin firm, they opened their office in the El Cortez Building – Ward being responsible for public relations and business development functions. Bill Lewis focused on design and project management. Within a few years, Bill became a co-owner and the firm became Deems Lewis Martin & Associates.
One of their earliest, most notable, and visible to the public, projects, the steel screen ensconced Crabtree Building (at 3rd & A Streets) was designed by Robert Jones (who would later join in partnership with Henry Hester).
In 1961, the firm Deems/Lewis & Partners worked its way through their first San Diego recession. Embracing the city-wide motto “Try San Diego First” they and other firms worked to keep clients from heading to Los Angeles to have their projects designed. The firm watched San Diego grow larger and more sophisticated. One important milestone was the shift of retail from downtown to Mission Valley as Walker Scott and Marston's folded – in part because of their design for Mission Valley shopping center.
As the firm changed its shingle from Deems-Martin Associates to Deems Lewis Martin & Associates, then to Deems/Lewis & Partners and subsequently to Deems Lewis McKinley Architects, and grew rapidly in its first few decades, many strong architects cut their teeth in the drafting room. Several of these architects would strike out on their own, or join other partnerships to put their stamp on San Diego’s built environment. Among these were Robert E. Jones (1960-61), Edward Malone, Donald Goldman (1962-64), Walt Conwell, Jerry Shonkweiler, John Stevenson, James A. Purcell, John McKinley, Neil Larson, Jack Carpenter and several others.
Partial List of San Diego Projects
Office Building (1963)
Christ The King Lutheran Church (circa 1959) (now Saint Ephrem Church)
Church of Jesus
Christ Latter Day Saints
El Cortez Convention
Medical Center (1964)
LKRD Medical Office
Center (ca. 1960)
Orr, Dr. & Mrs.
Robert J. Residence (1960)
Rubin, Seltzer & Soloman
San Diego County
Welfare Office Building (1963)
Torrey Pines High
U.S. Customs Station
U.S. Navy Anti-Submarine
Warfare School Mess Hall (1967)
U.S. Navy Enlisted
Men’s Barracks (1964)
U.S. Post Office
Voigt, Mr. & Mrs.
Melvin Voigt Residence for (December 1968)