David Adler: Great House Architect, Chicago's 'society architect' on PBS this June.

  • Aerial view of Castle Hill, Ipswich, Massachusetts designed by architect David Adler in 1925 for Chicagoans Mr. and Mrs. Richard Teller Crane Jr.Jay Burnham

    Aerial view of Castle Hill, Ipswich, Massachusetts designed by architect David Adler in 1925 for Chicagoans Mr. and Mrs. Richard Teller Crane Jr.Jay Burnham

Updated 5/31/2022 10:13 AM

New 4-part documentary airing each Friday night in June on WTTW Prime. Get the details at adlerarchitecturefilm.com

Kristin Noelle Smith's produced and hosted documentary "David Adler: Great House Architect" highlights the life, clients and classical architecture of this "society architect". The four episodes feature tours by experts at four of his grand residences, including two in Lake Forest, one in Lake Bluff and one in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Adler (1882-1949) designed over forty-five homes in all. He shunned publicity, was born in Milwaukee and trained in Europe. Upon returning to Chicago in 1911, from studying in Paris, he embarked on an outstanding professional career. At least twelve of his works are now 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. Adler's works are known for "symmetry, grandeur on a human scale, meticulous details, architectural salvage and a wide variety of historic inspiration."


Smith was first introduced to David Adler as a college student when invited by friends into homes he designed in Lake Forest, Illinois. Struck by their particular allure and glamour and motivated by her Francophile tendencies and appetite for history, she set out to learn all she could on one of her favorite architects, pouring over texts and eventually viewing a museum exhibition on him, and, in the process, became even more enamored of his beautiful, timeless work. Smith discovered, perhaps due to his historicism, reticence about publicity and the private nature of his affluent clients, Adler is often overlooked amongst notable architects. She believes more people would enjoy knowing of his incredibly elegant work. Smith recommends the books on David Adler and her documentary project adds to his story record.

"Let's help preserve architecturally significant buildings for future generations so they continue to inspire. The historic preservation process begins through education, often not provided in schools. David Adler: Great House Architect was created in support of this mission." Kristin N. Smith, MBA


WTTW Prime channel 11.2, Comcast 367 or 370, and RCN 37. at 6:30 pm and 11:30 pm.

Episode 1.

"Youth" Fri, Jun 3 features Adler's English Baroque, 17th century styled estate "Castle Hill" (1925-28) in Ipswich, Massachusetts with tour by Author, Curator Susan Hill Dolan. Open to the public.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

Episode 2.

"Training" Fri, Jun 10. features Adler's American, early 19th century styled estate "Port o'Call" (1926) in Lake Bluff, Illinois with tour by Collections Manager Thomas Gleason.

Episode 3.

"Career" Fri, Jun 17 features Adler's French Norman, 17th century styled residence "Innisfail II" (1930) in Lake Forest, Illinois with interview of owner and renown Architect Adrian Smith and son, Real Estate Developer Jason Smith.

Episode 4.

"An Era Ends" Fri, Jun 24 features Adler's Georgian 18th century styled residence "Wheeler" (1934) in Lake Forest, Illinois. with tour by Author, Librarian Arthur H. Miller.