A Woman to Know: Anna Connelly

Surely no other form of emergency egress has impacted the architectural, social and political context in metropolitan America more than the balcony fire escape. — architect Brian J. Pape

(image via U.S. Patents)


After a disastrous fire in 1860, New York City required all buildings to provide escape paths inside the building for residents. But landlords resisted, citing high cost and effort, so city leaders backed down, even as overcrowding in the tenement slums increased the likelihood of another catastrophic fire.

In 1887, Anna Connelly submitted a patented for small metal bridges that attach to the outside of city buildings — an invention too simple for landlords to fight. New York City government made the bridges a requirement for all tenements — today, we know Anna's invention as the fire escape, a hallmark of city architecture around the world.

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