Albert Irvin Cassell was a prominent mid-twentieth century African-American Architect in Washington, D.C. Cassell’s work shaped mainly the academic communities; he designed buildings for Howard University in Washington, D.C. and Morgan State University in Richmond. Cassell also designed and built civil structures for the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Cassell was born in Towson, Maryland to Albert and Charlotte Cassell. His father worked as a coal truck driver and his mother was a laundress. He received his education in the segregated Baltimore school system, but later moved to New York in 1909 where he began attending Douglass High School. At the high school, he studied drafting under Ralph Victor Cook. He was later admitted to the Cornell University architecture program in 1915. However, his studies were abruptly interrupted after two years because of World War I. He served in France, but never went into combat. He later received an honorable discharge in 1919.
Cassell later received his degree from Cornell University and began his career as an architect with William A. Hazel. In 1920, Albert joined the Architecture Department of Howard University as Assistant Professor. Just two years later, he became University Architect and head of the Architecture Department at Howard. Albert worked at Howard University for eighteen years, serving as an instructor, land manager, surveyor, and architect. Some of his important contributions are the Founders library at Howard University, Frederick Douglas Hall, the Chemistry building, and the Power Plant.
The Founders library building became the educational symbol for the university. During this period, Cassell also designed buildings at Virginia Union University in Richmond and Morgan State College in Baltimore. He also laid a strong foundation for a strong and successful Architecture program at Howard University.
In 1938, Cassell left Howard University to pursue the development of an unsuccessful planned community for African Americans on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay. He also participated in other projects such as the Washington National Airport and the Pentagon. Cassell died in Washington in 1969.