Born in Yonkers, New York, Abbott received a B.A. in landscape architecture from Cornell University and began his career in park design and land use planning with the Finger Lakes State Parks Commission and the Westchester County Parks Commission. At age 25, he was appointed by two pioneers of American parkway design, Jay Downer and Gilmore D. Clarke, to represent them in the creation of the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the earliest and most ambitious undertakings of the Works Project Administration. Abbott’s direction of the parkway project was visionary, from land acquisition and route selection to environmentally sensitive design, enlightened land management practices, and the careful preservation of cultural history.
In 1950, Abbott worked on the National Park Service team planning the Mississsippi River Parkway. In 1953, he was appointed superintendent of Colonial National Historical Park in Virginia. With his son, Carlton Sturges Abbott, he formed Abbott Associates, focusing on significant projects throughout the state including the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond, major site planning for Virginia Military Institute, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Radford College, Roanoke College, Hollins College, Mary Baldwin College, and a number of city and state parks, as well as numerous residential gardens.