Charles Winthrop Lea, Jr. was born in Tacoma in 1903 and received his education at the University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, and New York University. He worked as a draftsman in various architecture firms in Pennsylvania and for the firm of Delano & Aldrich in New York before returning to Tacoma in the early 1930s. In 1937, Lea formed a partnership with Charles Pearson and John Greenway Richards. Together the firm of Lea, Pearson & Richards prospered for 50+ years designing a variety of buildings in the Tacoma area. The firm specialized in the design of banks. Their projects include the National Bank of Washington (1949) in Chehalis, the National Bank of Washington (1950) in Parkland, Tacoma Savings & Loan Assoc. (1956), and United Mutual Savings Bank (1973) in Tacoma. They also designed several churches including Kilworth Chapel at the University of Puget Sound (1966), Trinity Lutheran Church (1958) in Parkland, and Central Lutheran Church (1957).
Lea was widely known for his residential projects and was praised by his peers for his special talent in the use of Colonial themes. The firms other notable projects include several homes around Steilacoom Lake in 1940, the Woodbrook Hunt Club (1938) in Tacoma, the Tacoma Goodwill Industries Building (1965), the Swasey Branch of the Tacoma Public Library (1960), and the Bank of Washington Plaza (1970) in Tacoma in cooperation with SOM.