Dankmar Adler

Temple Isaiah, Chicago, designed by Adler, circa 1910
Born July 3, 1844(1844-07-03)
Died April 16, 1900 (age 55)
Chicago, Illinois
Occupation Architect

Dankmar Adler (July 3, 1844, in Stadtlengsfeld, GermanyApril 16, 1900, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.) was a celebrated German-born American architect.

Early years[]

Adler's mother died after he was born. He came to the United States with his father Liebman in 1854.[1]

Architectural practice[]

Adler served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Thereafter, he practiced in Chicago, from 1866 onward.[2] He worked first with Augustus Bauer and next with Ozias S. Kinney.[3] Adler formed a partnership with Edward Burling in 1871; they created more than 100 buildings together before ending the partnership.[4]

After he began his own firm, Adler hired Louis Sullivan as a draughtsman and designer in 1880; Sullivan was made a partner in the firm in 1883.[5]

Adler was not only an architect but also a gifted civil engineer who, with his partner Louis Sullivan, designed many buildings including influential skyscrapers that boldly addressed their steel skeleton through their exterior design: the Guaranty Building in Buffalo, New York,[6] the Chicago Stock Exchange Building (1894–1972) and the Wainwright Building in St. Louis, Missouri.

Adler and Sullivan's Auditorium Building (1889) is an early example of splendid acoustical engineering, as is their Kehilath Anshe Ma'ariv Synagogue.[7] Both drew upon the fine acoustics in Adler's earllier Central Music Hall. Adler was an acclaimed expert in acoustics; yet, he was unable to explain fully the excellent acoustic properties of his buildings.[8]

With his partner Burling, and thereafter, as partner in Adler and Sullivan, Adler was instrumental in rebuilding much of Chicago following the Great Chicago Fire. Adler is considered a leader in the Chicago school of architecture. In addition to his pioneering accomplishments with steel-framed buildings and skyscrapers, Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, were early employers and mentors of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose consistent praise for Adler ("the ‘Amer­i­can Engi­neer’ my ‘Big Chief’")[9] surpassed even that he reserved for Sullivan, whom he called his "lieber meister".

The last major building Adler designed was Temple Isaiah.

Personal life[]

On June 25, 1872, Adler married Dila Kohn (05 Jul 1850 - 03 Dec 1918).[10] Their children include: Abraham K. Adler (September 13, 1873-October 30, 1914), Sidney Adler (26 Jun 1876-25 Nov 1925) and Sadie Adler (born 1878).[11] Adler's final resting place is the Mount Maryiv Cemetery in Chicago.[12]

Photographs and other archival materials are held by the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago. The Dankmar Adler Collection of letters, papers, and photographs also includes an autobiography.

Architectural work (partial list)[]

[13] The first group of buildings were created in partnership with Edward Burling:

  • Old Chicago Tribune Building, Dearborn & Clark
  • Delmonico's, Madison & Clark
  • Kingsbury Hall, Clark Street
  • Garrett Biblical Institute, Lake Street
  • Methodist Church Block, Clark Street
  • Samuel Cole Building, W. Lake Street - 1873
  • William Rowney Building - 1873
  • St James Episcopal Cathedral, E. Huron Street - 1875
  • Row Houses, 2225-2245 N. Burling Street - 1875
  • Sinai Temple, Indiana Avenue and 21st Street - 1875
  • Central Music Hall - 1879
  • Borden Block - 1879-90
  • Rothschild Store - 1881
  • Jewelers Building 1881-82
  • Revell Building - 1881-83
  • Third McVickers Theatre - 1883
  • Thirty-Ninth Street Passenger Station, ICR - 1883
  • Troescher Building - 1884[14]
  • Springer Block and Kranz Buildings - 1885–87
  • Selz, Schwab & Company Factory - 1886–87
  • Wirt Dexter Building - 1887
  • Standard Club of Chicago - 1887-88
  • James H. Walker Warehouse - 1888
  • Auditorium Building - 1887-1889
  • Hebrew Manual Training School - 1889–90
  • E. W. Blatchford Warehouse - 1889
  • Kehilath Anshe Ma'ariv Synagogue (later Pilgrim Baptist Church) - 1890–91
  • Wainwright Building, St. Louis, Missouri - 1891
  • Schiller Building - 1891-92
  • James Charnley House - 1891–92
  • Albert Sullivan Residence - 1891–92
  • Transportation Building, World's Columbian Exposition - 1891–93
  • Guaranty Building, Buffalo, New York - 1894


  1. ^ Brody, Seymour "Sy"; biographical sketch of Dankmar Adler in the Jewish Virtual Library
  2. ^ Sabin, Pat; Chicago Buildings by Architect
  3. ^ Morrison, Hugh and Timothy J. Samuelson; Louis Sullivan, Prophet of Modern Architecture; page 247
  4. ^ Lowe, David Garrard, Lost Chicago, page 52
  5. ^ Cahan, Richard, "They All Fall Down: Richard Nickel's Struggle to Save America's Architecture", page 60
  6. ^ Roth, Leland M. (1993). Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History and Meaning (First ed.). Boulder, CO: Westview Press. pp. 450. ISBN 0-06-430158-3. 
  7. ^ Roth, Leland M. (1993). Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History and Meaning (First ed.). Boulder, CO: Westview Press. pp. 100. ISBN 0-06-430158-3. 
  8. ^ Thompson, Emily (2002). The Soundscape of Modernity (First ed.). Massachusetts, USA. pp. 499. ISBN 0-262-20138-0. 
  9. ^ Sanders, Douglas, "The Frank Lloyd Wright Newsblog":
  10. ^
  11. ^ United States Census 1880.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Various sources including: AIA Guide to Chicago By Alice Sinkevitch, American Institute of Architects. Chicago Chapter, Chicago Architecture Foundation, Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois
  14. ^

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