Famous architect and occultist Claude Bragdon was born in Oberlin, Ohio in 1866, to George Chandler Bragdon and Katherine Elmina Shipherd. Shortly after his birth the family moved to Adams, NY. George Bragdon was an itinerant newspaper editor and poet, and the family moved repeatedly. Claude spent his childhood in Watertown, Dansville, and Oswego, NY, eventually graduating from Oswego High School. Soon afterwards, the family moved again to Rochester.
In 1886, Bragdon found work in the office of architect Louis Rogers, but disliked the job and tried his hand as a cartoonist, only to be fired after caricaturing Daniel Powers, one of Rochester's most prominent citizens and owner of the Powers Building. In 1890, he moved to New York City where he worked as an architect for Bruce Price, eventually moving to Buffalo to work for the firm of Green and Wicks, before returning to Rochester in 1891. From 1896 to 1904, Bragdon and J. Con Hillman formed a firm that designed the additions to the Livingston County Courthouse in Geneseo and the LeRoy Town Hall in LeRoy, as well as several houses and five Rochester police stations.
Despite running a press openly devoted to his theosophist beliefs, Claude Bragdon was able to win commissions throughout the city for noteworthy projects, including several Christian owned properties, such was the enormous respect for his skill as architect. Within the slim margin of buildings that have withstood the ravages of time and urban renewal, Bragdon's work is still visible in our First Universalist Church, Chamber of Commerce Building, and Bevier Memorial Building today. Sadly, the building considered to be his masterpiece, the New York Central Railroad Station was demolished after being sold to a private investor in 1965, the city losing the last section of it in 1978.
Bragdon also designed a number of notable homes in Rochester. The home he designed for his family is located on Highland Park at 3 Castle Park.
Following a disagreement with George Eastman over design details of the Chamber of Commerce Building in 1918, he was never granted another contract in the City of Rochester and moved on to work in Southern Ontario. Projects included the Hunter Street (Ashburnam) Bridge in Peterborough, completed in the early 1920s, and the Leaside Viaduct in Toronto, completed in 1927.
Starting in 1915, with the Festival of Song and Light in Highland Park, Claude Bragdon began to move more toward the theater arts. Subsequent festivals were held in Buffalo, Syracuse, and New York. In 1923, Bragdon moved to New York City permanently and settled into New York's social life as a writer. He died there in 1946.
The Bragdon Family papers, which include many of his architectural drawings and plans, are housed at the University of Rochester.