Bellefonte ART Museum for Families of Centre County
Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
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Architecture and Design Gallery

 

The Bellefonte ART Museum is pleased to present its first show honoring

 Anna Wagner Keichline, 1889 - 1943

 

 

Anna Wagner Keichline was born in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania in 1889.   By the age of fourteen, she had become locally known as a skilled craftswoman, winning a prize at the Centre County Fair for an oak table and walnut chest that she built herself.  She graduated from Bellefonte High School and entered Penn State, majoring in mechanical engineering (the only woman).  Eventually, she graduated from Cornell (1911) with a BA in Architecture.  A year later she received her first patent - an improved sink and washtub.

In 1920, she became the state of Pennsylvania’s first registered female architect. Her first building was a school in nearby Milesburg - which still stands as a residence.  She designed buildings in the mid-Atlantic states, and continued to come up with ideas for improved household environments, earning a patent in 1924 for a kitchen design that included sloped counter tops and clear-glass cabinets to make cleaning and organizing easier. In 1929, she patented a bed for a small apartment that could be folded into the wall.
In all, she would receive seven patents over the course of her lifetime, but her most famous invention was a brand new building component she designed known as the “K Brick.” Her K Brick was an inexpensive, fireproof clay brick that was to be used for hollow wall construction. The "K Brick" was the precursor of today’s concrete block. She patented the design in 1927 and was honored by the American Ceramic Society in 1931.

She was an advocate for women's rights and led a parade of suffragists in the 1913 Fourth of July parade in Bellefonte.

In addition to her work as an architect and inventor, in 1918 Anna volunteered for the U.S. Army's war effort.  She was assigned to be a Special Agent in the Military Intelligence Division in Washington D.C. and lived there until the end of the war.  .  In describing her qualifications for this duty she stated: “Am twenty-eight and physically somewhat stronger than the average. Might add that I can operate and take care of a car [she owned her own automobile]. The above might suggest a drafting or office job, but if you should deem it advisable to give me something more difficult or as I wish to say more dangerous, I should much prefer it."

Anna was honored with an official State of Pennsylvania historical marker in 2002.  It was placed in front of the Plaza Theatre which she designed and built in 1925.

 

Revised November11, 2011