Rare David Adler Modeled on Versailles Villa in Lake Bluff

The Carolyn Morse Ely estate designed by David Adler is an example of the enigmatic, Gatsby-esque architect’s flair for tailoring a house to reflect the personality of his wealthy clients. In this case, a monumental 1923 French manor on six acres in Chicago's North Shore.

Photo by: Prudential Rubloff Front view of the Carolyn Morse Ely estate: Adler was one of the most influential men and architects of his generation whose work has become as prized as other name-brand titans in the Chicago pantheon. He's known for his use of proportion and scale, as in this sweeping entrance.

David Adler (1882-1949) has been re-discovered. He lived and worked during an explosive, creative tide that bridged the industrial age of the late 19th century to the tech of the mid-20th, an era that took us from the buggy to talking pictures to the microwave. 

During his time in the sun, he whispered in the ear and secured the trust of Chicago’s upper crust — the Laskers, the Marshall Fields — building trophy houses for the set that writer C.S. Lewis would describe as an “Inner Ring.” They had bags of money and because their friends had an Adler they wanted one too. While the modernists were stripping down to Prairie bones or erecting temples of glass and steel, Adler gilded the lily. He had a versatile palette: Classical. Renaissance. Tudor. French. A chameleon that could access, with depth and confidence, a deep style vault. Think of it like this: While the moderns deconstructed, Adler staged Aida. He was an unrepentant disciple of high style and "Monumentalism."

He was 40 when he completed the 5-bedroom, 6.3-bath Louis XIV manor for the wealthy Carolyn Morse Ely (her father was head of Illinois Steel Company). She chose to live alone in this grand, expansive country estate, attended to by a bevy of servants — an unconventional arrangement by the standards of the time. 

Adler designed it to accommodate the bachelorette lifestyle of the 54-year-old divorcee who dined out often but wanted also, from time to time, to indulge in a swank soiree at home. There were no family bedrooms (the five bedrooms were for her female staff), and zero living quarters associated with men, except the “men’s toilet” buried under a staircase, according to a description of the plans in the book David Adler, Architect: The Elements of Style

It took more than a decade to wrap the 111 Moffett Road home. The early design, a mix of French Eclectic and English Georgian, was nixed by Ely. Adler returned from the boards with this fused-French composition modeled on the Pavillon de La Lanterne at Versailles, a limestone hunting lodge built in 1787 by Philippe Louis de Noailles, then governor of Versailles. (It was later utilized by French heads of state, from de Gaulle to Sarkozy, as a private retreat.) 

This graceful 1923 Lake Bluff adaptation is made of yellow brick and classical accents, and the formality, symmetry and restraint of this “jewel box-like” home stands as an unequivocal Adler masterpiece. 

Represented by Jean Anderson and Donna Mancuso of Prudential Rubloff. List price of $5.995 million.

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