Dankmar Adler

Dankmar Adler

Temple Isaiah, Chicago, designed by Adler, c. 1910
Born (1844-07-03)July 3, 1844
Stadtlengsfeld, Thuringia, Germany
Died April 16, 1900(1900-04-16) (aged 55)
Chicago, Illinois
Occupation Architect

Dankmar Adler (July 3, 1844 – April 16, 1900) was a German-born American architect.

Early years

Adler was born in Stadtlengsfeld, Germany; his mother died when he was born. He came to the United States with his father Liebman, a rabbi, in 1854.[1] Dankmar first landed in Detroit with his father, who took up residence in Detroit as the Rabbi of Congregation Beth-El (whose Detroit temples had been constructed by congregation member Albert Kahn, and their current temple was designed by Minoru Yamasaki), before moving to Chicago. Adler had some elementary level education in the City of Detroit and Ann Arbor, before leaving school to become a draftsman. Adler was involved with the Union Army during the Civil War, serving in the Chattanooga and Atlanta Campaigns during the war doing engineering work.


Adler served in the Union Army during the Civil War with the Battery M of the 1st Illinois Artillery.[2]

After the war, he worked as an architect in Chicago.[3] He worked first with Augustus Bauer and next with Ozias S. Kinney.[4] Adler formed a partnership with Edward Burling in 1871; they created more than 100 buildings together before ending the partnership.[5]

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.[6]

Adler's partnership with Sullivan was short-lived; due to a slump in their architectural practice brought on by the Panic of 1893, and Adler's desire to bring his two sons into the firm, there arose a rift with Sullivan, the result of which was that Adler left the partnership to join an elevator firm as engineer and salesman. After a short period, Adler returned to architecture, in partnership with his two sons, but never regaining the prominence he had with Sullivan.

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,[7] 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.[8] Both drew upon the fine acoustics in Adler's earlier Central Music Hall. Adler was an acclaimed expert in acoustics, yet he was unable to explain fully the excellent acoustic properties of his buildings.[9]

With his partner Burling and thereafter, as a 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 their 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'")[10] surpassed even that which 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 (July 5, 1850 – December 3, 1918).[11] Their children include: Abraham K. Adler (September 13, 1873 – October 30, 1914), Sidney Adler (June 26, 1876 – November 25, 1925) and Sadie Adler (born 1878).[12] Adler died in Chicago, Illinois, United States, and his final resting place is the Mount Maryiv Cemetery in Chicago.[13]

Death and legacy

Adler died in 1900.[2]

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)

[14] 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[15]
  • 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
  • Pueblo Opera House - 1890
  • E. W. Blatchford Warehouse - 1889
  • Kehilath Anshe Ma'ariv Synagogue (later Pilgrim Baptist Church) - 1890–91, interior destroyed by fire, approximately 2010.
  • 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. 1 2 Marquis Who's Who, Inc. Who Was Who in American History, the Military. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1975. P. 4 ISBN 0837932017 OCLC 657162692
  3. Sabin, Pat; Chicago Buildings by Architect
  4. Morrison, Hugh and Timothy J. Samuelson; Louis Sullivan, Prophet of Modern Architecture; page 247
  5. Lowe, David Garrard, Lost Chicago, page 52
  6. Cahan, Richard, "They All Fall Down: Richard Nickel's Struggle to Save America's Architecture", page 60
  7. Roth, Leland M. (1993). Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History and Meaning (First ed.). Boulder, CO: Westview Press. p. 450. ISBN 0-06-430158-3.
  8. Roth, Leland M. (1993). Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History and Meaning (First ed.). Boulder, CO: Westview Press. p. 100. ISBN 0-06-430158-3.
  9. Thompson, Emily (2002). The Soundscape of Modernity (First ed.). Massachusetts, USA: MIT Press. p. 499. ISBN 0-262-20138-0.
  10. Sanders, Douglas, "The Frank Lloyd Wright Newsblog": http://douglasanders.com/tag/dankmar-adler/
  11. https://www.familysearch.org/search/recordDetails/show?uri=https://api.familysearch.org/records/pal:/MM9.1.r/MZHV-9QL/p4
  12. United States Census 1880.
  13. "Dankmar Adler (1844 - 1900) - Find A Grave Memorial".
  14. Various sources including: AIA Guide to Chicago By Alice Sinkevitch, American Institute of Architects. Chicago Chapter, Chicago Architecture Foundation, Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois
  15. "Louis Sullivan at 150 : a comprehensive, six-week schedule of public programming leading up to the symposium.".
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