An Independent Documentary

Copyright Exemplar Arts LLC

David Adler Great House Architect

background image: East elevation drawing of the residence of David and Katherine Adler, Libertyville, IL copyrighted and courtesy of Amy Williams, Executive Director, the Adler Music and Arts Center.

A “society”, residential architect who shunned publicity, David Adler (1882-1949) was born in Milwaukee and trained in Europe. Most of his elegant Classical homes, over 45 in all, are on a grand scale, still stand and are cherished by owners. At least 12 of his works are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. His clients included America’s leading entrepreneurs during the Great House Era, a bygone time when the affluent employed live-in service staff of butlers, chauffeurs, gardeners, maids, cooks and more. Showcasing rare architectural footage of exteriors and interiors, this four-part series features interviews at four Adler designed homes. 

David Adler Architect.jpg

"Considered one of America's

premiere 'Great House' architects,

David Adler (1882-1949) left behind

a legacy of grandeur and elegance

that has never been equaled.”

The Country Houses of David Adler, by Stephen Salny, 2001.

David Adler. Image is copyrighted and courtesy of Amy Williams, Executive Director, the Adler Music and Arts Center, Libertyville, Illinois.

5 reasons
he's One of the greatest residential architects
of the first half of the 20th century:

1.    Adler was Chicago’s “society architect” of the very wealthy, but his work is all over the country.  Interestingly, he “shunned public attention” and his clients were unsolicited. They could have hired anyone. They selected him. Adler, ultimately, chose to let his work speak for itself. Most of his grand, Classical homes still stand 100 years later and are cherished by owners.

2.    Though schooled at the prestigious Polytechnikum in Munich and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Adler didn’t have a formal advanced degree or an Illinois license in architecture until obtaining one later in his career, upon passing an oral exam. His body of work demonstrates he was exceptionally gifted. At least 12 of his homes are on the National Register of Historic Places.  He created enduring, timeless beauty.

3.    Adler had “an enormous range of stylistic expression” and was “one of the last great eclectic architects.” 

4.     Adler was a complete architect. To ensure harmony, he also masterfully planned site usage, landscaping, interior decoration and furnishings. He frequently collaborated on interiors with his sister Frances Elkins, the inventive and famed designer. They are recognized for being leaders of mixing in works of European avant-garde artists, Jean-Michel Frank and brothers Diego and Alberto Giacometti, who are highly prized today.

5.     Adler was friends with Modern architects including internationally renown Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who he recommended to head the new architecture school of the Armour Institute of Technology (now IIT) in Chicago. However, Adler chose to work mostly in the classical vocabulary inspired by the elegant architecture of history.
 

David Adler, Katherine Keith Adler, Marshall Field III

David Adler, wife Katherine, with friend and client Marshall Field III (heir to the Marshall Field department store founded in the 19th century and publisher of the Chicago Sun Times)Image copyrighted and courtesy of Amy Williams, Executive Director, the Adler Music and Arts Center, Libertyville, Illinois.

Five David Adler experts were interviewed on camera at four Adler designed residences, constructed between 1925-1934, in the Great House Era. Vintage Adler floor plans and elevations are shown in each episode.