(b Hartford, CT, Nov 12, 1864; d Wickford, RI, Jan 1, 1943).
American architect, preservationist, and author. Isham was one of the earliest American architects to specialize in the restoration of colonial American structures. He worked on a large number of 17th- and 18th-century structures in New England, wrote several major works on American architecture, conducted archaeological site work, and also designed new, mostly residential buildings.
Most of his private and professional life was spent in Rhode Island with its large number of existing colonial buildings. The state’s extensive collection of early structures influenced his career, as did other Rhode Island architects who helped generate the Colonial Revival style nationally such as Edmund R. Willson (1856–1906), of the prominent Providence firm of Stone, Carpenter & Willson, with whom Isham trained in the late 1880s. About the same time, he received Bachelor and Master degrees from Brown University, and he married Elizabeth Barbour Ormsbee in 1895.
It is impossible to study colonial American architecture without encountering buildings that Isham restored. While some of his preservation methods and decisions have been superceded by more modern approaches and technologies, he notably produced scores of carefully measured drawings, which are still used by preservationists and historians today. His projects included such significant 17th- and 18th-century structures as Newport’s Colony House, Trinity Church, Redwood Library, and Wanton-Lyman-Allen house (all restored in the 1920s), the Stephen Hopkins House and University Hall at Brown University in Providence, Bishop Berkeley’s Whitehall in Middletown, the Eleazar Arnold House in Lincoln, and the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace in North Kingstown, all Rhode Island. His bibliography encompasses surveys of early Rhode Island and Connecticut homes, scholarly studies on specific buildings, such as the First Baptist Meeting House, Providence, and St Paul’s in Wickford and papers on individual architects such as John Holden Greene....