Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Anna Wagner Keichline: A Legacy of Invention

In the penultimate episode of New Angle: Voice, Season 2, meet Anna Wagner Keichline, architect, inventor, suffragette, and loyal daughter of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

Nineteen-thirteen was the year of the grand march for suffrage in Washington DC, where the 250,000 marchers and attendees eclipsed coverage the following day of the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson. Bellefonte PA, population 4,216, had its own march, on the Fourth of July. Costumes were de rigueur, with a goodly number of stately toga-clad ladies and a few wild harridans on horseback, along with one intrepid girl in her Cornell cap and gown: Anna Wagner Keichline.

Not every architect has the opportunity to build skyscrapers. In Bellefonte, Anna used her talents to improve the lives of her neighbors by designing their houses and gathering places. She adopted a gently accommodating architectural style in the shadow of all that high Victorian tracery, and designed sturdy churches, theaters, homes, schools, and recreation facilities in her hometown that still stand well and firmly in their context. But on her own time, she experimented with the latest technologies, eventually earning seven patents on inventions ranging from a fitted kitchen to a modular concrete brick.