Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes (1867 – 1944) was an architect and pioneer in social housing who co-authored the 1901 New York tenement house law. His most important contribution to NYC may have been his The Iconography of Manhattan Island, a six volume compilation he worked on for over 20 years and published between 1915 and 1928. It became one of the most important research resources about the early development of the city.
He was educated at St. Paul’s School, Concord, and Berkeley School in New York City before graduating from Harvard in 1891. He later took post graduate courses at Columbia University and then in Italy and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Upon returning to the United States, design several charitable building projects including: the Tuskegee tenement building in New York (1901); St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University (1907); Berea College Chapel (1906); Woodbridge Hall at Yale (1901); two tenements called the Dudley complex at 339-349 East 32nd Street, New York (1910); an outdoor pulpit for St. John the Divine Cathedral (1916) and memorial gates at both Harvard and Yale universities among many others.
While compiling the work The Iconography of Manhattan Island, Stokes had become an obsessive collector and spent large sums with dealers in America and Europe. He bequeathed the prints from his collection to the New York Public Library as well as selling others when eventually in need of funds.