La Bella Fontana

Report from Bellefonte PA, by Helen Fontana Bechdel

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Architect was ahead of her time

Anna Keichline, born in Bellefonte in 1889, was the first female architect registered in the state. Locally, she is honored by a state historical marker in front of the Plaza Centre, a gallery on the second floor of the Brockerhoff and an array of distinctive homes and buildings in the borough.

The Cadillac Building at the corner of West Bishop and South Allegheny streets, where state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-College Township, has his office, is an Anna Keichline design.

Perhaps not as well- known are the contributions Keichline made to the field of kitchen design. The word "ergonomic" probably had not been coined in her time, but she understood early on the importance of cutting down on the backbreaking labor that most kitchens demanded.

Keichline's great-niece Nancy Perkins, also an industrial designer, quoted, in the Spring 1991 issue of Innovations, one of the objectives of a kitchen patent granted to Keichline in 1926: "To improve construction of the various objects in the kitchen for increasing the comfort of the housekeeper as well as reducing her work."

Keichline did not think that a woman should need a ladder to reach the top shelves of a cabinet or that she should have to stoop to reach items on the bottom shelves. And cupboards should have glass doors so you can see what's inside.

Having lived a long time now with Formica counters the color of a York Peppermint Patty, I keep a file of kitchen ideas with the hope of remodeling some day. Glass doors, I see, are now available as an alternative to closed boxes hung on the walls. Keichline would approve.

But I'm not so sure what she would have thought about the current trend of under-the-counter drawers. Ads for one upmarket appliance company show a model wearing skinny pants and high heels squatting in front of the drawer of a floor-level fridge. My autumn-gold number is about 30 years old, but it has the freezer on the bottom with food storage at eye level.

Keichline worked hard all her life on the projects she believed in, starting with an oak table that won a prize at the Centre County fair when she was 14. She was awarded seven patents in all, working from her office in the Temple Court Building on South Allegheny Street.

Anna Keichline was not just a woman ahead of her time, she was a woman ahead of our times. Until someone invents an eye-level dishwasher, mine -- which died last winter -- will not be replaced.


  • At 2:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Post a Comment

<< Home