Lease Crutcher Lewis Celebrates 125 years

Seattle – In 1886 Bill Lewis’s great grandfather, N.T. Lease, founded a general contracting business that started the Lease Crutcher Lewis legacy. 125 years later Lewis says, “It’s good to be here. We are coming out of the worst recession ever and celebrating the fact that we have weathered yet another storm. I believe it is because we have always had a strong commitment to doing the right thing…for both our core business and the community. Sometimes it’s powerful to just do what you say you’re going to do…pretty simple.”

Lease founded the company in Montana, building residential and small commercial projects. In 1901 the company took on its first landmark project, the Cascade County Courthouse in Great Falls, MT. The three-story, English Renaissance Revival building, which was completed in 1903 for $250,000, is still in use today and is now on the National Historic Register. 

The company moved to Seattle in 1939 and the legacy of historically significant projects continued. The main terminal at Sea-Tac Airport was completed in 1949, Lincoln High School in 1959, and McMahon Hall at the University of Washington in 1966. During the 1950s the company found opportunity in Alaska and built several JC Penney stores. In the 1970s Lewis built Eaglepoint High School in Eaglepoint, Oregon and a sewage treatment plant in North Bend. Lewis opened its Portland office in 1993 and has built more than 50 university facilities as well as numerous other projects there. 

More recently, significant Seattle area projects have included 16 continuous years at the Starbucks headquarters, four buildings for Amazon’s headquarters, numerous industrial and office projects for Boeing, the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences, the Garfield High School renovation, and 11 years of continuous tenant improvement projects at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. A forte for Lewis has been downtown high rise office and residential buildings, and the first of these was the 2nd & Seneca building, built in 1991, better known as “The Green Dome”. 

The company has always been innovative: utilizing techniques and technology that add value for clients. In the 1980s the company integrated computers into design and construction projects before most other contractors. In the 1990s Lewis built some of the region's first sustainable construction projects and has nearly 30 LEED projects built to date, including the Platinum certified East Portland Community Center Natatorium. In 1997 Lewis built the first class M1 clean room for Matsushita. More recently, through its extensive use of Virtual Design and Construction and lean construction principles, Lewis has been setting records. The West 8th office tower, completed in 2008, used Just-in-Time delivery and other lean practices to set new records for cycle times on concrete forms for the core. 

Company leadership over the years has remained strong because of deliberate succession planning and the development of talented employees.  Company presidents N.T. Lease, Howard Lease, Jim Crutcher, and Bill Lewis all started in the rank and file. Jim’s first job was as an estimator on Seattle's Lincoln High School in 1958. Bill began as a project manager on the Bay Vista Tower Condominiums, completed in 1982. General Managers Gary Smith (Seattle) and Bart Ricketts (Portland) both started as project managers. 

The sense of employees being part of the Lease Crutcher Lewis family is longstanding. “In 2008 we launched an employee stock ownership plan,” said President Bill Lewis. “It supports our philosophy that everyone is empowered to work in the best interest of every client, the company, and each other.” Today, 100 percent of salaried employees are owners through the ESOP.

Lewis personnel have always had a strong commitment to the communities in which they do business. N. T. Lease was the mayor of Great Falls, MT in 1913. Since then many company leaders have held key roles in community and industry organizations. The Howard Lease and James P. Crutcher educational endowments were established as part of the AGC Education Foundation to provide scholarships for young people in the industry. The company also supports a generous charitable contributions matching program for employees.

When asked the question, “What’s next?” Bill Lewis responds, “We will continue to serve clients in a diverse set of markets, and play to our core strength which is being entrepreneurial and innovative. Initiatives like Lewis Lean will benefit our clients as it streamlines the construction process and adds value to each project we build. I am looking forward to the next cycle.”

About Lease Crutcher Lewis
Lease Crutcher Lewis has been a leading Northwest general contractor since 1886, and has been based in Seattle since 1939.  Lewis is active in numerous project types, including restaurant, retail, biotech, medical, office, education, hotel, historic renovation, and others.  Common threads for its work include an integrated approach to working with customers and design partners, a focus on optimal use of technologies such as BIM for efficient and lean construction, and performing a large percentage of its work with its own craftspeople.