James Carl Wise was born May 30, 1904 in Sadorus, Illinois to James Thomson Wise (b. 1872) and Lettie Mae Goodman (1882 – 1933). Mr. Wise’s father was a farmer and son of an English immigrant. According to the 1910 Census, Mr. Wise had two younger sisters, Helen and Lucille. He graduated from Sadorus High School. He matriculated to the University of Illinois in 1922 and obtained an Architectural Engineering degree in 1924. He later matriculated to the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1925. He was conferred a Bachelor’s of Science degree in architecture in 1928.
Shortly after graduating from Georgia Tech, Mr. Wise married Hortense Robinson. They had a son, James Carl Wise, Jr. (1930 – 1965). Major James C. Wise, Jr. died in Vietnam as a pilot in the United States Air Force in 1965.
Occupationally, Mr. Wise started working as an architectural draftsman at G. Lloyd Preacher and Company in Atlanta, Georgia. During Mr. Wise’s tenure at this firm, G. Lloyd Preacher and Company designed Atlanta’s elaborate art deco, neo-Gothic city hall (1930). He later started his own firm in 1931. According to the Atlanta City Directory, he worked for G. Lloyd Preacher & Company in 1929 as a draftsman and later as an architect in 1931.
“By 1932, 85% of all architects were out of work. Even eminent architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, considered by many to have been the greatest architect of the 20th century, faced hard times. Early years of the Great Depression were Wright’s “longest fallow period” with only two buildings built from 1928 to 1935.” In Charlotte, NC, there were 1319 building projects approved in 1928. By comparison, only 318 building permits were approved in 1934. (see http://cmhpf.org/CharlotteArchInGreatDepression.htm). Atlanta would have been a comparably difficult climate for an aspiring architect.
By 1935, Mr. Wise was listed in the city directory in his own office at 161 Spring Street. Mr. Wise married Sarah Frances Deariso (1914 – 1953) in 1935. In 1936, Mr. Wise had an office at 161 Spring Street and lived in a house at 1186 N Ridgewood Drive NE, DeKalb County, Georgia. According to the 1936 Atlanta City Directory, there were thirty-eight architects and architectural firms in the city.
Prior to World War II, Mr. Wise worked primarily as a residential architect. Based on a scrapbook Mr. Wise created, he designed numerous residences between 1931 and 1942, including 1207 Oakdale Road, Atlanta, Georgia (1931); 2488 Dellwood Drive, Atlanta, Georgia (ca. 1930s); 152 Brighton Road, Atlanta, Georgia (1934); 330 Broad Street, Rome, Georgia (1935); 445 Peachtree Battle Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia (1935); 204 Peachtree Battle Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia (ca. 1935); 10 Brookhaven Drive, Atlanta, Georgia (ca. 1935); 7 Habersham Way, Atlanta, Georgia (ca. 1936); 3150 Habersham Road, Atlanta, Georgia (ca. 1937); 3057 Ridgewood Road, Atlanta, Georgia (1937); 417 Hillside Drive, Atlanta, Georgia (1938); 3235 Ridgewood Road, Atlanta, Georgia (ca. 1940); 3215 Ridgewood Road, Atlanta, Georgia (ca. 1940). According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution archives, Mr. Wise also designed twenty-five residences in Avondale Estates and twenty-five residences in Loring Heights.
On April 3, 1940 when the Census was enumerated in Avondale Estates, Mr. Wise was living with his wife, 11 month-old daughter (Suzanne), mother-in-law (Mattie Deariso), and sister-in-law (Helen Deariso) at 9 Exeter Road, DeKalb County, Georgia. He was renting the house for $47 per month. He reported working 50 hours in the week prior to the enumeration and working 52 weeks the prior year as an architect with a private office. In addition to James Carl and Martha Suzanne, Mr. Wise also had another son, James Thomson (born 1948).
In 1941, Mr. Wise was residing at 383 Garden Lane in the Loring Heights neighborhood of Atlanta according to the Atlanta City Directory. This was a neighborhood he is credited with helping to design many of the houses according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution archives.
In 1942, Mr. Wise was commissioned as an officer in the United States Army. On February 16, 1942, Mr. Wise was listed on his draft registration card as residing at “A1 Eng Office,” Fort Jackson, South Carolina. The form noted that he was married to Frances D. Wise at the time. He was listed at 5’10” and 190 pounds. He worked as an Assistant Area Engineer, Charleston Engineer District until 1944. From 1944 through 1946, he was Chief of Design Section, 1112th Engineer Combat Group Executive Officer and Battalion Commander, 1896th Engineer Aviation Battalion in the Southwest Pacific Area. He would attain the rank of Brigadier General in the U.S. Army Reserves conferred by Governor Jimmy Carter.
After World War II, Mr. Wise resumed his private architecture practice of James C. Wise, Architect. In 1951, he formed a partnership with William M. Simpson and Hobert W. Aiken as James C. Wise & Associates. The firm was incorporated in January 1959 as James C. Wise, Simpson, Aiken and Associates, Inc. The firm’s projects focused on commercial and government buildings. A representation of the firm’s design work include the physical education building, Georgia Academy for the Blind, Macon, Georgia; Paces Ferry Tower Apartments, Atlanta, Georgia; low-rise multi-family building, 2520 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, Georgia; office building and service facilities, Atlanta Gas Light Company, Atlanta, Georgia; Lester R. Brewer Elementary School, Atlanta, Georgia; 420 unit armed services housing project, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida; Georgia School for the Deaf, Cave Springs, Georgia; central terminal and maintenance shops, Akers Motor Lines, Charlotte, North Carolina; office building, Peachtree Federal Savings and Loan Association, Atlanta, Georgia; and the Fulton County Jail (1960s building), Atlanta, Georgia.
According to the Historic American Buildings Survey on Techwood Homes (HABS No. GA-2257), “the administration building was remodeled in July of 1955, by James C. Wise.” In 1962, he designed an office tower opposite Lenox Square at 3384 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, Georgia. According to an audio interview, one of Mr. Wise’s last known residential designs was completed for Robert Wren of Akers Motor Company, 832 Wren Road, Gastonia, North Carolina.
After the death of Sarah Frances Deariso, Mr. Wise married Hope Rich in November 1953 and was married to her for 33 years.
In 1966 – 1967, Mr. Wise designed a renovation of the garage and servant’s quarters of the Edward Inman house, “Swan House,” for use as a luncheon/tea room and gift shop known as the Coach House Restaurant. This project was completed for the Forward Arts Foundation. He also designed the Fulmer Residence Hall on the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology, which opened in 1969.
Mr. Wise was a registered architect in Georgia (license number 276), Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee.
Mr. Wise maintained other professional activities, including President and Chairman of the Board, General Warehouse, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia; Vice President and Director, East Wesley Apartments, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia; and President and Treasurer, 873 Spring Street Company, Atlanta, Georgia.
Mr. Wise was also involved in community associations, including Military Order of World Wars, Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Atlanta Historical Society, Buckhead Improvement Association, Northwest Atlanta Business Men’s Association, Palestine Masonic Lodge, Lake Lanier Sailing Club, Druid Hills Country Club, Castleview Town and Country Club, and Georgia State Chamber of Commerce. He held leadership positions as president of the Northwest Atlanta Civitan Club and Commandant of the Old Guard of the Gate City Guard.
Mr. Wise passed away on September 28, 1988. He is buried in Arlington Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia.