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Tue, 06.25.1895

Albert I. Cassell, Architect born

Albert Cassell

*Albert I. Cassell was born on this date in 1895. He was a prominent mid-twentieth-century Black architect.

Albert Irvin Cassell was born in Towson, Maryland, the third child of Albert Truman Cassell and Charlotte Cassell. His father, Albert T. Cassell, was a coal truck driver, and his mother, Charlotte Cassell, aka "Lottie," was a laundress. Albert Cassell began his education in the segregated Baltimore public school system but moved to New York in 1909, where he began attending Douglas High School. At Douglas High, Cassell studied drafting under Ralph Victor Cook. With Cook's assistance, Cassell was admitted to the Cornell University architecture program in 1915, where he was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha.

After completing two years at Cornell, Cassell's studies were interrupted by service in the US Army in World War I. He served in France, but not in combat, and was honorably discharged in 1919 as a second lieutenant in the 351st Heavy Field Artillery Regiment. In 1919 Cassell was awarded his degree from Cornell University and began his career working with architect William A. Hazel. In 1920, Cassell joined the Architecture Department of Howard University as an assistant professor. Two years later, in 1922, Cassell became a University Architect and head of the Architecture Department at Howard. 

Career

Cassell worked at Howard University for eighteen years as an instructor, land manager, surveyor, and architect. Cassell's vision and work helped shape the campus through his "Twenty Year Plan," in which he designed numerous campus buildings. His most crucial design at Howard was the Founders Library, a building that evoked the Georgian architecture revival style, and Independence Hall in Philadelphia. This building would become an architectural and educational symbol for the university.

While at Howard, Cassell also designed buildings for other institutional clients. His work included buildings at Virginia Union UniversityProvident Hospital in Baltimore, various Masonic temples, and smaller works for select commercial and residential clients. Following his time at Howard University, Cassell designed several buildings for Morgan State College (now Morgan State University) in Baltimore. In his later years, he joined with other Black architects to form the firm of Cassell, Gray & Sutton. He went on to work for several other large clients, such as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and the government of the District of Columbia.

As his final project, Cassell sought to develop Chesapeake Heights on the Bay, a 520-acre summer resort community for Blacks in Prince Frederick, Calvert County, Maryland. The project was to feature houses, a motel, shopping centers, a pier, a marina, beaches, and a clubhouse fronting the Chesapeake Bay. Roads and a few homes were built by 1969, but the project ended with Cassell's death in November.  

Legacy

At a young age, Albert Cassell determined that his children would all go to Cornell and all become architects. He had eight children, and all but one became an architect.

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