In 1819, wealthy French merchant Louis Pascault, the Marquis de Poleon, constructed a row of eight houses on Lexington Street that now remain as the one of the earliest examples of the Baltimore rowhouse. Born in France, Pascault later moved to the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now known as Haiti). By the late 1780s, nearly 500,000 enslaved Africans labored at plantations on the island producing nearly half of the world's sugar and more than half of the world's coffee. In 1791, free blacks and enslaved people rose in revolt and Pascault joined thousands of white refugees fleeing the island for cities in the United States.
Pascault settled at Chatsworth, a large country mansion on Saratoga Street between Pine and Green, and profited from the quickly growing city's booming trade. After the city expanded in 1816, Pascault, together with carpenter and master builder Rezin Wight and merchant William Lorman, commissioned William F. Small to design this elegant row of Federal style houses adjacent to his estate. The dwellings soon attracted a host of wealthy residents, earning the row the distinction of being highlighted in an 1833 guidebook to Baltimore - the only row noted on the map.
The row soon became home to some of Baltimore's wealthiest families and remained a prestigious address for decades. Columbus O'Donnell, who was president of Baltimore's Gas and Light Company in the mid-nineteenth century and a director of the B & O Railroad (1839-1847) lived here with his wife, Eleanor, who was Louis Pascault's daughter. O'Donnell's mother, Sarah Chew Elliott O'Donnell, whose portrait hangs in Washington's National Gallery, lived in this row during the early 1820s. Her husband and Columbus' father, was John O'Donnell, a wealthy merchant and politician who had a momentous impact on Baltimore's international trade, particularly with China and Asia as a whole, and the man for whom Baltimore's O'Donnell Square is named.
By the 1970s, the iconic homes fell into disrepair. Using funds procured under the College Housing Loan Program, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, purchased the row in 1978 and renovated the historic buildings, transforming them into offices and student housing.