An Inside View of David Adler’s 1406 North Astor Street


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David Adler designed the legendary home at 1406 Astor Street for the Ryerson family.  The home was completed in 1921.  Designed with a distinct Louis XVI influence, it remained a single-family residence for years, then was carved into apartments.  The home went on the market in 1988.  Within 24 hours, it was purchased by an interior designer, who painstakingly restored it to its former glory.  The house sold again in 2006 for $9.2 million.  It continues to be a stunning example of Adler’s design, as well as the stewardship of its devoted owners.

Below, a photo of the dining room in the 1920s.  Note the interlocking “Rs” in the frieze above the door.

The dining room, photographed circa 2001, when the house was for sale for $9 million.

More photos from when 1406 North Astor Street was for sale in 2001.

A Forgotten Chicago Architect Worth Remembering


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When we think of Chicago’s early residential architects, the giants easily come to mind: Frank Lloyd Wright, his mentor Louis Sullivan, Benjamin Marshall and David Adler.  However, let’s take a cruise down Lake Shore Drive.  We’ll take a quick detour from the subject of this post.  As the old Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah “Lake Shore Drive” song from 1971 goes,

“And it starts up north from Hollywood,
water on the driving side
Concrete mountains rearing up,
throwing shadows just about five
Sometimes you can smell the green
if your mind is feeling fine
There ain’t no finer place to be,
than running Lake Shore Drive
And there’s no peace of mind, or place you see,
than riding on Lake Shore Drive.”

See the YouTube video of this song.

On Lake Shore Drive, you’ll view walls of apartment towers, some ultra-modern, some resembling Italian palazzos, some with a hint of Georgian architecture, and others with an Art Deco vibe.  A great many of these apartment buildings were designed by Robert DeGolyer.  He is largely forgotten, but many Chicagoans  have lived happily in his buildings.  I first discovered him when I bought a home in a building he designed on Lakeview Avenue.  I fell in love with the building at first sight.  It was rock-solid with foot-thick plaster walls.  Its ceilings soared, the apartment was thoughtfully laid out, and the home was laden with smart little touches that only a master architect could have inspired.  Years after the building’s 1912 construction, its public spaces kept the faith to the original George III decorative elements, as you’ll see here:

and here:

Today’s tribute goes to Robert De Golyer.  Here is a sampling of his remarkable design vocabulary, and his buildings that still march down “the Drive” and nearby streets.

Designed in 1926, 3750 N. Lake Shore Drive rises fortress-like at the corner of Sheridan Road and Grace Street.

3750 N. Lake Shore Drive

A couple of blocks away, at 3500 N. Lake Shore Drive, are the Cornelia Apartments.  With a distinctive mansard roof, the building exudes an Empire influence.

3500 N. Lake Shore Drive

The 1924 Barry Apartments, several blocks south, are constructed of pale brick, and command the corner of  Barry Street and Sheridan Road.

The Barry Apartments, 3100 N. Sheridan Road

A block away is 3000 N. Lake Shore Drive, which De Golyer designed in 1927.  The apartment building features Tudor elements, some of which originally concealed water tanks on the roof.

3000 N. Lake Shore Drive

De Golyer’s Marlborough, at Lakeview Avenue and Deming Street, was constructed in two phases.  The Deming side was built in 1912.  It featured smaller, yet eminently livable apartments.  The Lakeview addition was completed in the 1920s, and has larger units with semi-private lobbies.

The Marlborough: Lakeview Ave. and W. Deming St.

De Golyer’s Gold Coast apartment homes featured distinctive details and rich appointments for the area’s upscale clientele.  Imagine how the first residents of 1430 N. Lake Shore Drive must have felt in a structure that rose like an arrow among a host of Gilded Age mansions.  Built in 1927, the building replaced a large single-family residence.

1430 N. Lake Shore Drive

Just a bit south is De Golyer’s 1242 N. Lake Shore Drive.  Completed just before the Great Depression, only a fraction of the co-op’s units sold, and the rest were rented.  The Gothic-inspired apartment building features a penthouse that was once owned by McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc.

1242 N. Lake Shore Drive

Before he designed 1420 and 1242 N. Lake Shore Drive, De Golyer completed 1120 N. Lake Shore Drive in 1925.  At the time of its construction, it was the tallest co-op building in the city.

1120 N. Lake Shore Drive

De Golyer’s 1320 N. State Parkway offers large units filled with northern light.  Its Venetian-inspired design renders it unique in the many apartments that line State Parkway.

1320 N. State Parkway

De Golyer’s contribution to the Streeterville neighborhood is 200 East Pearson, an elegant palazzo in the city.  A co-op, the building offers large, well-proportioned apartments with classic mouldings and high ceilings.

200 E. Pearson St.

One of De Golyer’s most imaginative creations is the Powhatan, at 4950 South Chicago Beach Drive.  This Art Deco masterpiece was built in 1927.  Its terra-cotta cladding gives it a feeling of lightness. Its strong vertical lines create the illusion of endless lift.

The Powhatan, 4950 S. Chicago Beach Drive

How can one feel anything except delight upon entering through the Powhatan’s doors?

Powhatan Entrance

David Adler Treasure for Sale


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Perhaps it is the difficult economic climate that affords us the rare opportunity to view interiors of some of the storied houses of David Adler. The Chicago-based architect designed many homes in the city’s North Shore and Gold Coast areas.  Adler had an unerring eye for proportion, and a limitless vocabulary of styles. His sister, Frances Elkins, was a celebrated interior designer, and assisted him with many of his projects.

This Adler-designed lakefront treasure is for sale for $6.2 million.  Adler designed the 21-room home in 1916 for Charles and Frances Pike. Mr. Pike was the son of Zebulon Pike, for whom Pike’s Peak is named.  When you approach the house, from the street, it arises like something out of a dream.  I’d always wanted to see what it looked like inside.  Although a friend of mine lived down the street, he did not know the current owner, and one does not go anonymously knocking on the doors in this ‘hood.  Hence, I am delighted to present to you these views.

The front elevation, with its commanding entrance:

 Adler designed the villa to take advantage of the property’s proximity to Lake Michigan.

Let’s catch a breeze along the classically proportioned loggia.

The courtyard, circa 1970

The courtyard features a signature Adler design, paved with stones he selected from the home’s beach, all those years ago.

                                               The ultimate beach stone craft project

Now, taking a break from the home’s exterior grandeur, we’ll wander down to the beach.

We’ll wipe the sand off our feet, walk back up to the home’s entrance, and step into the magnificent foyer.  Note Adler’s masterful treatment of the pediments, and how they direct your eyes toward the coffered ceiling.

Next, we’ll poke our noses in the paneled living room.
Entertains quite a few, wouldn’t you say?

The dining room accommodates an ample number of guests.

The gallery is another Adler signature item.  If only if the excessive window treatments and furnishings didn’t detract from the “lovely bones.”

Another room is faithful to the home’s Mediterranean roots.

Here we see a large bedroom.  Wonder if it overlooks the lake.

Not to be unkind to the current owners, who have no doubt poured millions into maintaining this residence, but clearing some of the furniture inventory and window treatments would make the home truly shine.

Our tour is complete.  I hope the new owners bestow the same amount of care the the present owners have lavished on this landmark.

See the listing.

Rescue Me. Sincerely, David Adler


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This 1913 David Adler masterpiece is on the market for $2.6 million. Adler and Henry C. Dangler designed the French-influenced home for Ralph Poole. According to the wonderful book, Classic Country Estates of Lake Forest, Adler may have been inspired by the Chateau Montgiron when designing this home, which is located a few blocks away from the shore of Lake Michigan north of Chicago. The chateau sits on 8.26 acres of land, providing a substantial frame for such an extraordinary residence.

The home is in desperate need of some TLC, but whoever the current owners are, they should be thanked profusely for the care they put into it over the years.

Let’s approach the house from the circular drive.

The first thing you see is the magnificently proportioned facade.

The circular drive viewed from the home’s entrance

Upon entering the house, the visitor is welcomed by a dazzling foyer, including one of Adler’s perfectly rendered staircases.  Except for some staining to the bases around the door, the foyer looks impeccable.

Foyer leads to graceful staircase

Perfect bridal staircase

However, the trouble begins after the dreamlike entry.  Let’s wander into the music room.  It is, well, green. However, the essential French details remain, just waiting to be uncovered.

It’s not easy being green.

An older photo depicts the enfilade procession of doors, with the music room in the foreground.

A little enfilade going on here

The next room, likely the main salon, is decidedly pink. Pouf window treatments obscure perfectly proportioned French doors.  Adler surely paces through here in the darkest hours, spectral paintbrush in hand.

Oh please, rethink the pink!

The library is pretty darned close to being perfect.  Nothing a little floor refinishing and wood oil can’t restore.

With a bit of restoration, the library will be a best seller.

Imagine taking breakfast in the solarium, and watching the seasons change. There is some weather-related damage, but it is certainly repairable.

Solarium has nearly wraparound views.

A wall-mounted fountain adds whimsy to the solarium.

Just add water: Instant joy.

Uh-oh, it’s time to tour the dining room. What happened here?  A ruin.  A magnificent one, but very much a ruin. The room is reminiscent of the dining room in the home Adler designed for the Ryerson family on Chicago’s Astor Street.  The amazing Louis V influence, the symmetry.  Under all that green, the impeccable bones are still intact.

It’s REALLY not easy being green.

The dining room in its pre-green days

The poor kitchen.  Adler must shed ghostly tears when he wafts through here. Yet the possibilities are endless.  Nothing that a gut job and some Peacock or Smallbone cabinetry won’t fix.

Light filled kitchen seeks overhaul opportunity.

The abandoned greenhouse and the four-bay garage look so forlorn.  Imagine the delicate blooms that were once coaxed out of the greenhouse.

Garage and greenhouse need love.

On toward the gardens.  According to Stephen M. Salny, author of the excellent book, The Country Houses of David Adler, the Poole family commissioned Frederick Law Olmsted’s firm to design the gardens, but the plans were never executed. Apparently, Adler directed the landscaping.  Salny writes, “A grass terrace introduced the garden in perfect alignment with the south elevation of the house. A pair of steps on alternate ends of the terrace gave way to the garden, where the lawn was dotted with fruit trees and bordered by flower-lined beds of colorful lilacs and peonies. The inside edge of these beds formed yet another border for the garden’s center court, which gradually sloped to a lower level.”

Great “bones” still exist of the formal garden.

According to The Country Houses of David Adler, a field of alfalfa once flourished in view of the home’s south elevation.  The alfalfa supplied food for the cows that were once housed in the estate’s barn.  The barn is no longer extant.

Rear elevation shows some damage.

Side view, indicating neglected beauty.

I wish I had the ability to restore this landmark home. Perhaps you do, and will consider buying this treasure house.  Here is the listing.

Romantic Mediterranean Type Seeks New Love



In a western suburb dominated by teardowns, this 1929 home stands apart on almost a full acre.  This is what an estate should look like.  It keeps a polite distance from the street, and doesn’t shout, “lookee here, I’m rich!”  Having said that, one must have a few bucks in the pocket to afford the $2.8 million asking price.

Its back yard features an allee of tree, providing an atmosphere of grand space.

The courtyard provides an elegant, private outdoor space.

The interior is updated, but is faithful to the original design.

Let’s hope that this beauty remains intact for a new generation to enjoy.

The listing.

If you really insist upon a Mediterranean that screams, “I’m money, and you ain’t,” here’s one for you, a couple of blocks away.  It’s also for sale, and let’s hope the new owners get out the wrecking ball.

Another David Adler Hits the Market


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Can you tell I am a fan of this renowned architect? As I mentioned in a previous post, I do not know whether it is the sluggish economy, a general need to downsize, or escalating property taxes, but an unusual number of Adler-designed homes are for sale.  This gives us a unique opportunity to “go inside” these private residences, and appreciate what their owners have done to maintain them over the years.

This home was a design collaboration between Adler and Henry Dangler. Constructed in 1914, the home has 17 rooms, an in-ground pool, and a tennis court.  It was built for Joseph Cudahy (meat fortune) and his wife, Jean Morton (salt fortune). The original name of the home is Innisfail.  It is currently listed for $7.9 million.

According to the real estate listing, the home was once the setting for actual dog-and-pony shows that were staged long ago by the children of Lake Forest.

Here is the rear elevation, showing the classic balustrade and urns that ring the back of the home.

A private courtyard offers a refined outdoor setting.

The pristine pool.

And the tennis courts.

On to the interiors.  As in many Adler homes, this one features a substantial gallery.

No Adler home would be complete without a handsome wood-paneled library.

Entertaining guests is easy with these large salons.

One dines happily here.

Will you be the next caretaker of this architectural gem?

See the listing.