Brexton Renaissance

Charles Emmett Cassell, Architect of the Brexton

A Short Biography of Charles Emmett Cassell
 (April 26, 18381 - August 29, 19162)

Confederate Engineer3.
Ensign, Chilean Navy4.
Architect ~1871-1916.
AIA, National < 18705.
AIA, Baltimore Chapter, Founding member. December, 18706 or 18717
FAIA, 1905.

Charles Emmett Cassell was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, on April 26, 1838, son of Charles E. and Sarah W. Cassell.
He served the entire Civil War in the Confederate Army8 Engineering Corps, rising from private to captain, and serving under General Pickett. After the war, he traveled to South America and served in the Chilean Navy. He returned to the United States and practiced architecture in St. Louis9 before coming to Baltimore about 1868. Cassell was a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) before becoming a founding member of the Baltimore Chapter, AIA, in 1870. He was raised to fellow of the AIA by 1905. He practiced with his son John (Charles E. Cassell & Son) from 1905 to the latter's death of flu in 1909 with his nephew, Charles M. Cassell of Norfolk, Virginia (Cassell & Cassell) and with Henry H. Law (Law & Cassell) in Washington, DC.

Cassell occupied offices in the Lexington Building at the southwest corner of Charles and Lexington streets from 1868 through 1881, when he moved to 55 North Charles Street (renumbered 301 in 1887), where he remained until 1893. In that year, he moved to the new Law Building at the corner of St. Paul and Lexington streets, which he had designed, and remained there until the 1904 fire destroyed the building. The partnership of Charles E. Cassell & Son was located at 411 North Charles Street at its formation in 1905, and moved the next year to a suite in the reconstructed Law Building, occupying those offices until John Cassell's death in 1909. Charles E. Cassell continued to practice in reduced quarters on the eighth floor of the Law Building until his death in 1916.

According to Richard B. Carter, great-grandson of Charles E. Cassell, the family name was originally Casselli, and they emigrated from Genoa, Italy to Norfolk, Virginia in the 1820s. Charles Emmett Cassell was trained as a naval architect, and received a degree in engineering from the University of Virginia at age 15. He designed the naval waterworks at Old Point Comfort, Va.; upon secession, he spirited the plans out of his office to keep them from falling into the hands of the Union, and was branded a traitor for this action. He attained the rank of Captain in the confederate military, and at the end of the Civil War Cassell, then aged about 21 or 22, fled to Bogota, Chile to avoid execution for treason. He became an Admiral in the Chilean navy. He was pardoned for his offense and returned to Virginia, where he married Sally Bowles, daughter of a prominent Episcopal clergyman. The couple moved to Baltimore and took over the residence of Cassell's brother at 1407 Park Avenue. They had three daughters, Mary Virginia, Sally Primrose [Mr. Carter's grandmother, b.1874.] and Matty, and a son, John, who became an architect and practiced with his father. Mrs. Cassell died suddenly in a flu epidemic, and several maiden aunts from Norfolk took turns caring for the children, commuting on the Bay Line steamer. Cassell is believed to have invented a system of sidewalk paving incorporating thick glass cylinders to admit light to basements. Among his designs were a country house for Albert Hutzler, work for the Levi family of Independent Beef Co., Friends School near the intersection of North and Park avenues, Jenkins Memorial/Corpus Christi Church (doors and crypts only), church opposite Johns Hopkins University playing fields, and the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Incarnation10

He is buried in his family's lot on Cedar Grove Cemetery, Portsmouth, Virginia.


 Lexington Building (Charles & Lexington, southwest corner), 1868-1881.
 55 North Charles (now 301 N. Charles) 1881-1893.
 404/405 Law Building (St. Paul & Lexington) 1893-1904.
 Law building destroyed in 1904 fire.
 Cassell & Son office at 411 N. Charles in 1905.
 Reconstructed Law Building 1905-1909.
 8th floor of the Law Building 1909-1916.

 1. Tombstone Inscription, Cedar Grove Cemetery, Portsmouth, Virginia. Back to the document
 2. Baltimore Sun, Obituary, 8/30/1916. Back to the document
 3. Baltimore Sun, Obituary, 8/30/1916. Back to the document
 4. Baltimore Sun, Obituary, 8/30/1916. Back to the document
 5. Faith Hommel Vosburgh, letter, 11/24/1981. Back to the document
 6. Faith Hommel Vosburgh, letter, 11/24/1981. Back to the document
 7. AIA web site indicates Baltimore chapter founded 1871. Back to the document
 8. Baltimore Sun, Obituary, 8/30/1916. Back to the document
 9. Carter, Richard B., Charles E. Cassell, Baltimore's Immigrant Architect. Back to the document
 10. Interview with Richard B. Carter, 9/17/1991. Back to the document