Morgan State University Memorial Chapel

Large one-story masonry building with a smaller gable-roofed wing
Morgan State University Memorial Chapel

Photograph by Dale Glenwood Green, courtesy of Maryland State Historic Preservation Office

Quick Facts
4307 Hillen Road, Baltimore, Maryland
Architecture, Education
Listed in the National Register – Reference number 100002500
The Morgan State University Memorial Chapel, on Morgan State University's academic quad and main campus in northeast Baltimore City, Maryland was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2018. The chapel is an irregular-shaped one-story masonry building that was constructed in 1941. Designed by the prominent African-American architect Albert Irvin Cassell, FAIA (1985-1969), the building embodies a modem interpretation of the Collegiate Gothic style.  It was intended to serve both as worship space and as a social center for students. The building is faced with roughly cut local stone, with cast-stone decorative detailing and a slate roof; buttresses, decorative ironwork, and a complex roofline with low parapets are its defining architectural characteristics.

In 1867 a group of ministers met at Sharp Street Church in Baltimore to establish the Centenary Biblical Institute. That institution grew, and in time the curriculum was broadened and the name was changed to Morgan College in honor of a generous benefactor. In the 1920s the school was moved to its present site. The economic depression of the 1930s put the school's future in jeopardy, and in 1939, the trustees decided to sell the college to the State of Maryland. The proceeds from that transaction were earmarked for the construction of a center for religious and student activities (the present chapel), a parsonage (demolished), and an endowment. The buildings were erected on a plot of land adjacent to the campus, and were dedicated December 16, 1941.

The Chapel was originally named after Susie Carr Love, the first African American female graduate in 1878 of the Centenary Biblical Institute and mother of the prominent educator and Methodist Bishop Edgar Amos Love, founder of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. The name, Morgan State University Memorial Chapel, recognizes that although founded by and receiving support from the United Methodist Church, it is primarily an ecumenical institution. It is a place for cooperation and activities of representatives of all religious faiths. The chapel provides a place for regular formal worship, for informal religious meetings or conferences, and for weddings and funerals, primarily but not exclusively, for persons associated with the University. Its facilities provide space for a variety of activities by various organization and individuals in the Baltimore area.

Albert I. Cassell, F AJA, architect:

Records of the American Institute of Architects indicate that Cassell was the eighth registered African American architect in the nation. In addition to several projects on Morgan's campus, Cassell is noted for having designed buildings for several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). He was also responsible for planning complete community projects in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia. Albert I. Cassell was a prominent mid-twentieth-century visionary architect who excelled in a field that was scarcely ready to accept African Americans early on. The structures that he designed, constructed, or altered were scattered from Richmond, Virginia, to Baltimore, Maryland, and were located as far away as Tuskegee, Alabama, where his career began. An educator as well, he set the tone for architectural training at Howard University, providing the structure for educating black youth in the field.

After receiving his degree from Cornell, Cassell joined William Augustus Hazel at Tuskegee Institute (subsequently Tuskegee University) in Alabama in designing five trade buildings. In 1920 he became chief draftsman for architect Howard J. Wiegner in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, designing silk mills and industrial plants. Two years later the men collaborated as architects for the Home Economics Building at Howard University, Washington, D.C.

Cassell joined the Howard architectural faculty, under Hazel's leadership, in 1920, and then succeeded him in 1922 as assistant professor and head of the department. He was also named university architect. He put in place a firm foundation for developing the Department of Architecture in the School of Applied Science. By 1934, he developed the School of Applied Science into the College of Engineering and Architecture. Cassell is largely responsible for developing Howard's campus, as he created in 1920 the university's "Twenty Year Plan" ( or Master Plan) for expansion and designed most of the buildings around the quadrangle.

Last updated: November 1, 2021