Arunah S. Abell IV, architect, designed zoo's giraffe house

November 21, 1995|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Arunah Shepherdson Abell IV, a Baltimore architect whose novel design of a zoo structure penned the spectators rather than the animals and earned him national recognition, died of cancer Saturday at his sister's home in Ruxton. He was 67.

"Ed" Abell -- a great-grandson of Arunah S. Abell, founder in 1837 of The Sun -- designed the Baltimore Zoo's giraffe house, a circular structure that opened in 1966. His intent was to have the spectators walk up a ramp surrounded by a dry moat on each side and thus get a feel for the animals.

"Tropical plants, trees and rocks, combined with the circular and dome shape of the whole building are designed to aid the viewer's excitement," Mr. Abell said in a 1965 interview. "He'll be surrounded by giraffes, looking through foliage to see them."

Sam Hopkins, former chairman of the Baltimore Park Board and retired Alex. Brown & Sons partner, said: "It was a striking building and people were thrilled with it. Ed, who was a very personable individual, put his heart and soul into it and made it something more than just another zoo building."

An Easton resident since the late 1980s, Mr. Abell headed his own architectural firm from 1962 until his death. He designed private homes, and did work for the city school system, the state and the Rouse Co.

Mr. Abell was born and raised in Ruxton, attended St. Paul's School and studied engineering and architecture at the Johns Hopkins University -- coping with a then-unrecognized disability, dyslexia.

"Because he had a learning disability which people in those days knew very little about, he had to memorize all of his work and succeeded in passing the architectural registration exam with a very high grade," said his sister, Eleanor Abell Owen.

Mr. Abell began his career as a gandy dancer, laying track for the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad. He later worked for the Army Corps of Engineers and on the construction of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge before going to work for several Baltimore architectural firms.

He enjoyed playing the piano, tennis and power boating, and was a member of the Bachelors Cotillon and L'Hirondelle Country Club.

Mr. Abell married the former Marjorie Causey in 1952. They were separated in recent years.

In addition to his wife and sister, other survivors include a son, Arunah S. Abell V of Stoneleigh; a daughter, Marjorie L. Abell of Jersey City, N.J.; a granddaughter; and a close friend, Charlotte Hoffman of Baltimore.

A memorial service is planned for noon tomorrow at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Boyce and Carrollton avenues, Ruxton.

Memorial donations may be made to the Historical Society of Talbot County, Easton 21601; or the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd.

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