The Bevier Memorial Building at Night: Another Dimension of Claude Bragdon

The Bevier Memorial Building at Night: Another Dimension of Claude Bragdon

Claude Bragdon’s architecture can be found across Rochester. In “Alone in the Dawn” Restorationist James Caffrey joins the conversation with more on Adelaide Crapsey, we learned about the murky relationship between Bragdon and famed Rochester poet, Adelaide Crapsey.


Otis Arch designed by Claude Bragdon. From Saying goodbye to the “Downtown: The Way It Was” photos

In Saying goodbye to the “Downtown: The Way It Was”photos, we saw the triumphant arch Bragdon designed for the homecoming parade of General Elwell Otis on June 15th, 1900.

Today, George offers a nocturnal look at the Bevier Memorial Build in which he sees “something geometrically flawless.”

The Bevier Memorial Building at Night: Another Dimension of Claude Bragdon

Text and Photography by George Cassidy Payne


There is something geometrically flawless about the Bevier Memorial Building. Designed by Claude Bragdon, the building invites viewers to ponder the ornate tile work while basking in the warm lamplight of Gothic fixtures, Romanesque arches, and pragmatism at its finest.

Like all of Bragdon’s works, the building is perfectly shaped for its purpose and functionality. After all, he was not just a brilliant designer of mere bricks and glass. He was a superbly talented and relentlessly creative mathematician who worked out some of the most unfathomable problems in the field. More about him as you read on.

The important thing to know about the Bevier, is that it was Bragdon’s personal favorite. In doing research for this article, I discovered that his father died in 1910, which is the year that this building was officially dedicated and opened for business. I now see that it may be more than a sublimely noble piece of structural art; it may be a sentimental present to the memory of his father.

Highlights abound. The front staircase is simply alluring. The windows in the front are dramatically installed to make the entire building swallow the sunlight whole. The brick work is handled with delicacy. It is the work of a theosophist, mystic, engineer, and designer who called Rochester home. It is the inimitable work of the one and only Claude Bragdon.



His power came from some great reservoir of spiritual life else it could not have been so universal and so potent, but the majesty and beauty of the language with which he clothed it were all his own.” Claude Bragdon


Mathematics is the handwriting on the human consciousness of the very Spirit of Life itself. Claude Bragdon


Two things can get people to make efforts: if people want to get something, or if they want to get rid of something. Only, in ordinary conditions, without knowledge, people do not know what they can get rid of or what they can gain.  P.D. Ouspensky


“George Chandler Bragdon, Claude Bragdon’s father, was born April 29, 1832 at “Chestnut Hill,” a well-known station on the Underground Railroad near Lake Ontario in Richland, New York. After attending Union College, he taught briefly before embarking on a career as a newspaperman.   He edited a succession of newspapers across upstate New York before he and his family settled in Rochester in 1884. An accomplished poet, ardent Emersonian, and early Theosophist, G. C. Bragdon published a volume of verse, Undergrowth (1895), various pamphlets on New York State, and edited Notable Men of Rochester and Vicinity (1902).  He died August 7, 1910.” (


“Katherine Elmina Shipherd was born December 30, 1837 in Walton, New York to Catherine Schermerhorn, a temperance and women’s rights advocate and Fayette Shipherd, a Congregationalist minister and abolitionist.  Like the Bragdon’s Oswego County home, Fayette Shipherd’s house was a station on the Underground Railroad. In 1858, Shipherd moved his family to Ohio where his younger brother John J. Shipherd had been a founder of Oberlin College.  Katherine Shipherd taught at Pulaski Seminary in Oswego County, New York prior to her marriage to George C. Bragdon on March 22, 1860. The couple had two children, May (1865-1947) and Claude Fayette (1866-1946). Katherine Bragdon died September 6, 1920.” (


“Claude Fayette Bragdon was born at the Shipherd family home in Oberlin, Ohio on August 1, 1866. His family moved often until shortly after Bragdon and his sister graduated from Oswego High School in 1884, and they settled in Rochester.  Bragdon immediately began work as a draftsman for a series of Rochester architects, most notably Charles Ellis, for whom he worked 1886-1889. During this period Bragdon helped to organize the Rochester Architectural Sketch Club and entered numerous architectural competitions, often winning a top prize. In January 1890, Bragdon struck out for New York where he was briefly employed by Bruce Price before returning upstate for a job with the Buffalo firm of Green & Wicks. He returned to Rochester in 1891 to go into partnership with Edwin S. Gordon and William H. Orchard (Gordon, Bragdon and Orchard). Among the firm’s most notable projects were competition designs for a New York City Hall and a re-design of Boston’s Copley Square as well as several railroad stations and a commission for a new building for the Rochester Atheneum and Mechanics Institute.” (

The Rochester Atheneum and Mechanics Institute is now RIT and is the Bevier Memorial Building today.


“A prolific and influential writer, Bragdon published more than twenty books and hundreds of articles. He was nationally known for his graphic art, his writing on the fourth dimension, his Song & Light Festivals of 1915-1918, and his role in theater’s New Stagecraft.” (

He had technical and artistic expertise in many disciplines, making it difficult to categorize his work into a specific stylistic trend. Bragdon’s work as an early modernist is important both in its own right and as a key to other 20th Century architects’ work.


“Alone in the Dawn” Restorationist James Caffrey joins the conversation with more on Adelaide Crapsey

Saying goodbye to the “Downtown: The Way It Was” photos

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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