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Communications and Marketing

Alumnus presents David Adler research

The Chicago Tribune covered author and alumnus Stephen Salny’s well-attended Homecoming lecture on October 6.

‘A crowbar and lots of cash’: High society architect David Adler revisited

By Mark Lawton

The architect David Adler, who practiced from 1911 to 1949, was so well respected that he could choose his clients.

That’s according to Stephen Salny, a 1977 graduate of Lake Forest College who wrote “The Country Houses of David Adler.” Salney spoke at the college on Oct. 6 to about 70 people.

“He interviewed his potential clients,” Salny said. “Some he approved, and some he didn’t.”

Adler largely practiced in the Chicago metropolitan area and designed several houses in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff, Salny said.

He went to great lengths to please his wealthy clients, Salny said, even buying and prying items off houses in Europe that he could reuse for his American clients.

“David would often go to Europe with his clients,” Salny said. “He would travel the countryside with a crowbar and lots of cash.”

Adler was raised in Milwaukee in a “very comfortable family” that emphasized culture and traveled to Europe, Salny said.

After failing on his first attempt, Adler was admitted to the Ecole de Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1906 to study architecture, Salny said. He returned to the U.S., having skipped his third year, and worked for noted local architect Howard Van Doren Shaw for a short time before setting up a practice in 1911 with a friend.

Interestingly, Adler had trouble passing the state license exam for several years and had to find someone else to design and sign blueprints, Salny said.

Salny, who runs his family’s real estate management company in Baltimore, said he first became interested in Adler a few months before he graduated from Lake Forest College in 1977. He discovered many of the houses he admired in Lake Forest were designed by Adler.

“His houses are both monumental and human at the same time,” Salny said. “They were rather elegant and restrained. They were always done in great taste with nothing ostentatious. He could do French, Italian, Colonial, Federal or combine styles.”

Though Salney majored in economics, he arranged to do an independent study on Adler, Salny said.

“I wrote letters to every homeowner in the North Shore who owned an Adler house,” Salny said. “I did the paper and it was all-consuming. I didn’t stop for three months…My teacher said, ‘you’re going to write a book on this someday.’”

Arthur Miller, secretary of the Lake Forest Preservation Foundation, said he found Salny’s talk interesting.

“(Salny) was instrumental in getting attention for Adler’s work,” Miller said.

–Chicago Tribune, October 11, 2017