Martha Ann Cassell
Early life and education
Martha Ann Cassell (Thompson) was one of two sisters who became successful black female architects. Her mother, Martha Ann was a public school teacher and her father Albert was a famed architect in the Washington, DC area. He attended Cornell University and graduated in 1919 with a degree in architecture. He is most well known for being the university architect for Howard University. Her uncle, Oliver Cassell also attended Cornell and received a degree in Civil Engineering. He became a successful building contractor.
Martha attended Cornell with her brother Charles and her sister Alberta. She entered in 1943 and graduated in 1947 with a bachelor of architecture, becoming the first African American woman to graduate from the College of Architecture.
Martha married a doctor and had a daughter. She later went on to become a third generation architect after graduating from Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology
Career in Architecture
Martha’s detailed renderings of European cathedrals and her in depth knowledge of gothic style ecclesiastic architecture contributed to her being hired personally by Philip Hubert Frohman, principal of the firm Frohman, Robb and Little. The firm was hired to be the chief architects for the restoration of the Washington National Cathedral. She was responsible for the detailed drawings and renderings for the restoration. During the end of her life, Martha became the special assistant to Frohman.
Major Buildings and Projects
- Washington National Cathedral 1959-1968
Martha gave back to the community by spearheading the Social Service Committee at the Young Christian Association of Washington, DC.