Archival Collections
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library

Jac Lessman architectural records and papers, 1925-1975 

Lessman, Jac, 1904-1990
Phys. Desc: 
128 rolls; 18 folders (flat-file); 8 print boxes; 2 manuscript boxes
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library
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Biographical Note

Jac Lessman was born in 1904 in Chicago and studied at Crane Technical High School and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, receiving training in architecture and engineering. He began working, while still in high school, for his father, who ran a small furnishings and interior decorations shop. In 1922, Lessman was hired as a designer in the interior design department of Albert Pick & Co. in Chicago, where he began specializing in interiors for hotels, theatres, clubs, and cabarets. In the late 1920s, Lessman moved to New York City to join the contract decorating department of L. Barth & Co. In December 1928, Lessman opened his own interior design firm, Jac Lessman & Co. (changed in 1930 to Lessman Interiors), taking commissions throughout the United States. Among his first independent projects in New York City were the Hotel Delmonico and the Hotel Governor Clinton. After World War II, Lessman became increasingly sought after for large casinos, resorts and hotels, designing the interiors of the famed Desert Inn and Stardust Hotel and Casino, both in Las Vegas, and the Casino Internacional at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba in Havana, among many other projects. He was also known in some circles as "The Nite Club Doctor" for his ability to turn around struggling venues with his redesigns. Although some of his commissions were from members of organized crime, Lessman was always careful to take a straight fee for his work, and not a percentage of profits, thus staying out of legal jeopardy. Lessman also maintained a close relationship with industrialist Henry J. Kaiser and designed residences for several Kaiser family members, as well as interiors for offices and healthcare facilities within the Kaiser Permanente system. Lessman was a long-time member of the American Institute of Interior Designers (A.I.D.) and his work was widely published in the popular press and in professional journals. As his business expanded, Lessman also established several related companies, including Hotel Concepts, Jac Lessman Design Corp., and Jac Lessman Co. He died in New York City in 1990.