Harold E. Wagoner was born in Pittsburgh, PA, to Jesse L. and Harriett Hess Wagoner, and received most of his architectural education at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (B. Arch. 1926), with a return to architectural education in 1933 when he enrolled at the American Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Fountainebleau, France. Immediately after graduation from Carnegie he was employed by the Methodist Bureau of Architecture (1926-1933; Sundt & Wenner
), and this experience inclined his mature career toward ecclesiastical design, an area in which he became a specialist. Writing in 1983, Wagoner declared: "My firm is one of the few, perhaps the only one in the U.S. which has devoted all its efforts to Religious Architecture. We have had commissions in 36 states. . . . We have designed over 500 religious buildings."
During the years in Philadelphia working for the Bureau Wagoner was associated with the office of Thomas & Martin (1936-40), followed by a stint of work with Wenner & Chance. His connection to Walter Thomas would be cemented in the 1940s when Wagoner became Thomas's partner in Thomas & Wagoner (1944-1948), after serving as Chief of the Camouflage Unit, U.S. Army Engineers during World War II (1942-1944). In 1948, however, he organized his own independent office and continued in operation well into the 1980s. During this period, he was also associated with William C. Chance. Wagoner's office was succeeded by Henry Jung.
Prominent in the field of Protestant church design, Wagoner contributed a number of articles to Faith & Form. He also received several awards, including in 1958 an Award of Merit from Carnegie Institute of Technology. Within the awards granted by the Church Architecture Guild of America, Wagoner dominated in the 1950s and 1960s.
Wagoner was also active in the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA, serving on the board of directors from 1959 to 1961 and as vice-president from 1961-1962. He gained Emeritus status with the AIA in 1976. He also served as Chairman of the Commission on Architecture, Lutheran Society of Music, Worship and the Arts and President of the Church Architectural Guild of America.