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Louis Sullivan at 150 Years
Celebrating Louis Sullivan's 150th Anniversary

In 2006, the Chicago History Museum led a six-week series of public programs to mark the 150th anniversary of Louis Sullivan's birth. The culminating event was the Louis Sullivan at 150 International Symposium, held at the Museum. Click here to access audio recordings of the symposium presentations, including the keynote address by Jean-Louis Cohen.

This website serves as a record of the celebration and provides an extensive overview of Louis Sullivan's life and career. Click here to find out more about the programs held throughout Chicago to mark Sullivan's sesquicentennial.

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Dankmar Adler

Dankmar Adler was born in Eisenach, Germany, on July 3, 1844. Because his mother died during childbirth, his father chose the name Dankmar, which means “bitter thanks.” At the age of ten, Adler and his father immigrated to Detroit, Michigan. Dankmar entered public schools but did not excel in his studies. He was unable to get into college and instead received private drawing instruction, which led to his interest in architecture. Adler’s father placed him with local architect John Schaeffer as an apprentice. During his apprenticeship, Adler learned the conventional five orders and spent much time drawing ornament in the Byzantine and Romanesque styles.

In mid-1861, Adler’s father was named rabbi of Kehilath Anshe Ma'ariv Synagogue in Chicago. The two relocated to the city and Dankmar began his search for employment as an architect. After less than a year of searching with little result, Adler enlisted in the Illinois Light Artillery to fight in the Civil War, serving between 1862 and 1864. Upon his discharge from the service, he returned to Chicago. Although he was doing well with solo architectural work through the late 1860s, to meet the increased demands for architectural services following the Great Fire of 1871, Adler formed a partnership with Edward Burling.

His success in architecture allowed Adler to marry Dila Kohn in 1872. Kohn was the daughter of Abraham Kohn, founder of the Kehilath Anshe Ma'ariv Synagogue where Adler’s father was the rabbi. After almost eight years working with Burling, Adler opened his own firm in 1879. He achieved moderate success in this endeavor, due in great part to his keen understanding of acoustics and how they related to architecture. To bolster this success, Adler invited Louis Sullivan to join the firm in 1880 and announced their partnership in 1883. The two became extremely successful and designed approximately 180 buildings over their 15-year partnership. Adler died suddenly of a stroke at the age of 56, on April 16, 1900.

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Dankmar Adler
Chicago History Museum

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This site is supported by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.