W. R. Morton Keast was chief designer for John T. Windrim for some 25 years. He was born in Philadelphia, the son of Richard Henry and Emma Keast. After graduating from Northeast Manual Training School, he entered the University of Pennsylvania with the class of 1908, but left in 1904. During his summer breaks from the University, Keast worked for Cope & Stewardson; and after leaving the University, he was employed by Paul P. Cret and Albert Kelsey on their design for the Pan-American Building in Washington, DC. By 1910, however, he had begun his long employment with John T. Windrim and would remain associated with him for the rest of the senior architect's life, with only a few years spent in the offices of other architects, such as Cass Gilbert, for whom he worked during 1916/17, and the Philadelphia office of Simon & Simon, to whom he was loaned by Windrim in order to establish the design of the Fidelity Bank Building on South Broad Street in Philadelphia (1927-30). Returning to Windrim in 1930, Keast remained in the office until Windrim retired in 1933 and succeeded to the practice, changing the name of the firm to his own. During the reign of Windrim, however, Keast had been responsible for the design of the Franklin Institute Building, 20th Street and the Parkway in Philadelphia, several Bell Telephone buildings, and the house group for Girard College in Philadelphia. One of the last buildings which he designed under the Windrim name was the new Wanamaker Men's Store Building (Lincoln-Liberty Building) on South Penn Square Street below City Hall. Here the abstract Beaux-Arts design so often employed by the Windrim firm can clearly be seen, with the building topped by a much simplified "Tower of the Winds" constructed to house the Wanamaker bell. Before the PSFS penthouse was added in the 1930s, this building was the tallest in Philadelphia, barely adhering to the gentleman's agreement not to overshadow the statue of William Penn topping City Hall tower.
Keast was a member of the AIA, achieving fellowship status in 1951. In addiition, he was a member of both the T-Square Club and the Pennsylvania Society of Architects, the Franklin Institute, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution. In 1910 he had won the Cope Memorial Prize for his design for a "Treatment of a Public Square on the Parkway," an appropriate subject since he would later embellish the Parkway, not only with the Franklin Institute, but also with the Municipal Court Building adjacent to Horace Trumbauer's Free Library.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
- Pennsylvania Society of Architects
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- T-Square Club
- Franklin Institute
- Sons of the Revolution
- University of Pennsylvania
- Northeast Manual Training School
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