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.
Vertner Woodson Tandy (1885 – 1949) was an American architect. He was the first African American registered architect in New York State. He initially attended Tuskegee Institute studying architectural drawing. In 1907 he graduated from Cornell University with a degree in architecture.
Tandy also holds the distinction of being the first African American to pass the military commissioning examination and was commissioned First Lieutenant in the 15th Infantry of the New York State National Guard.
He designed buildings for Harlem millionairess Madam C. J. Walker, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church at 204 West 134th Street in NYC, and the Ivey Delph Apartments, designed in 1948, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
David Bates Douglass (March 21, 1790 – October 21, 1849) was a civil and military engineer, who worked on a broad set of projects throughout his career. He was an instructor/professor at The US Military Academy, Kenyon and Hobart Colleges. Born in New Jersey, he graduated from Yale University, fought in the War of 1812, consulted on the Erie Canal’s western end, and designed the Montville inclined plane on the Morris Canal across the Northern area of New Jersey.
Most New Yorkers enjoy Mr. Douglass’ work at the Green-Wood Cemetery. The sprawling, natural landscape and one of the highest points in Brooklyn (200 feet above sea level) is a beautiful and inspirational place where the dead have been placed for over 150 years. The cemetery opened in 1838 when there was no room left to bury in Manhattan. The gates of the cemetery were designated a New York City landmark in 1966, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 and was granted National Historic Landmark status in 2006 by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The layout of the cemetery has inspired hundreds of other places of rest throughout the world.
Other noteworthy projects that Douglass led or was a major contributor in included surveying the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad route, the design of a major water delivery system for New York City, and the design of cemeteries in Albany and Quebec based on his design of Green-Wood.
James Bogardus (March 14, 1800 – April 13, 1874) was an American inventor and architect, the pioneer of American cast-iron architecture, for which he took out a patent in 1850. He was born in the town of Catskill, New York and was a descendant of the Rev. Everardus Bogardus, the second clergyman in New Netherlands. At the age of fourteen, Bogardus quit school to start an apprenticeship at a watchmaker.
He began inventing early in his life and by the age of 28 had patented a cotton spinning machine, an engraving machine for bank notes, and a milling machine for ball bearings and lens grinding. After his invention of cast-iron in the early 1850s, he demonstrated the use of it in the construction of building facades, especially in New York City for the next two decades. Over 100 of the buildings still remain in the SoHo and Tribeca areas of Manhattan.