[A School of Fine Arts]
Second Medal in Society of Beaux Arts Architects Competition
Local ID #: 190506/059
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Chiefly known as a Chester, PA, architect, Clarence Wilson Brazer, the son of Christopher and Julia (Wilson) Brazer, was born in Philadelphia and received his early education at Asbury Park, NJ, graduating in 1897 from high school there. He then entered Drexel Institute and graduated in 1899, spent some time in apprenticeship (Wilson Bros. & Co., 1899-1900; Newman, Woodman & Harris, 1900-1901) before moving to New York, where he worked with Cass Gilbert from January 1901 until April 1905 on Gilbert's plans for the State Capitol in St. Paul, MN, and an art gallery and festival hall for St. Louis, MO, as well as the U. S. Customs House in New York City. This time in New York allowed him to further his study of architecture also because he studied with Frank E. Perkins (1901/02) and John Van Pelt (1903-05) while there. Returning briefly to Philadelphia, Brazer joined the firm of E. V. Seeler (November 1905-January 1906), where he worked on Seeler's design for the Bulletin Building. In early 1906 he relocated again to New York and established his own firm (Clarence Wilson Brazer, 1905-1911), earning second prize among 133 competitors for the Capitol of Puerto Rico. (In fact, according to Brazer's application for membership in the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA, his plans were later purchased by the appointed architect and officially accepted for the design.) From 1908 to 1909 he also returned to classes, this time at Columbia University, where he studied town planning.
From 1911 to 1914 Brazer entered a partnership in New York, using the name Brazer & Robb. Although at this time no clear information has been found regarding the Robb of Brazer & Robb, it is possible that this is Brazer's classmate from Drexel, E. Donald Robb, who had graduated along with him and had already spent some time in the firm of Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson. (Withey's biography of Robb states that Robb had spent 1911 to 1914 working independently in Boston; however, this is doubtful.) Brazer & Robb designed St. Paul's Church in Kittaning, PA (1913), an indication of Robb's interest in ecclesiastical design, and further credence is given to this connection by Brazer's association with Frohman & Robb on the design of First Presbyterian Church, Chester, PA (exhibited in the T-Square Club Annual Exhibition, 1926).
After this stint in partnership, Brazer returned to Pennsylvania in 1914 and remained there in independent practice until his retirement in 1947. For most of that time he was based in Chester, PA; but when he retired, he returned to New York and was living in Flushing, Queens at the time of his death.
Brazer's practice was broadly based; he was as adept at designing housing operations as he was at restoring historical monuments. He restored and adapted the Old Court House and Civic Center in Chester, PA, to be used as the new city hall (1916); his design was used for the 90-acre Westinghouse Village constructed in South Philadelphia, 1918.
Brazer was also active in professional and civic associations. He was a member of the T-Square Club, the Anerican City Planning Institute, the Architectural League of New York, the National Housing Association, and the AIA, representing the Philadelphia Chapter on the national registration laws committee from 1926 to 1932.
After his retirement Brazer transformed his stamp collecting hobby into a stamp selling and appraisal business. Since he had already published a number of books on the hobby, he was accepted as an authority on the subject; and after retirement he devoted himself to this activity. He was editor of The Essay and Proof Journal, and he appraised Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt's stamp collection.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Pennsylvania Society of Architects
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- T-Square Club
- Rotary Club
- American City Planning Institute
- Architectural League
- Delaware Co. Historical Society
- Sons of the American Revolution
- Welcome Society
- Drexel Institute
- Columbia University
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