(1844 - 1900)
Dankmar Adler was a pioneer and a leader in developing
and building steel-framed skyscrapers in the 1880s. Adler
was also an expert in acoustics for building auditoriums
and theaters. Adler was born in Eisenach, Germany, on
July 3, 1844. His mother died when delivering him. For
this reason, his father, Liebman Adler, named him Dankmar. The name
is a compound of the German words dank (thanks) and mar (bitter).
Adler was a public school teacher and a cantor in the local synagogue.
In 1854, Liebman Adler decided that he and his son would immigrate
to Detroit. There, he became the rabbi and cantor of Congregation Beth El.
Dankmar received his education in the public schools.
He failed to get into college and received private instruction in drawing. After he expressed an interest in architecture, his father placed
him as an apprentice with Mr. Shaeffer, a well known architect.
He was taught the conventional five orders and drew many sketches
of the Byzantine and Romanesque ornaments that were so popular in
that period. Mr. Shaeffer taught him to erect houses of worship.
After Liebman Adler was named rabbi of Kehilath Anshe Ma'ariv
Synagogue in Chicago in May 1861, the Adlers moved there. Dankmar
Adler started to look for an architect's job but this was cut short in July
1862, when he enlisted in Company M, First Regiment, of the Illinois
Light Artillery to fight in the Civil War. He was involved in many
battles from 1862 through 1864 and was also wounded.
In between the battles, he was constantly reading scientific publications. In the last nine months of service, he was assigned to be a
draftsman in the Typographical Engineer's office of the Military Division of Tennessee. When he was discharged, he returned to Chicago.
He had many jobs as an architect from 1865 to 1871, when he formed
a partnership with Edward Burling. Eight months after the partnership
began, they were inundated with work as a result of the great Chicago
fire in October of 1871. Adler married Dila Kohn in 1872. Kohn was
the daughter of Abraham Kohn, who was a pioneer settler in Chicago
and a founder of the Kehilath Anshe Ma'ariv Synagogue.
Adler decided to be independent and opened his own firm in 1879.
Soon after he went into business, he hired Louis Sullivan, who was
later to become his partner. (The two of them would later build more
than 100 buildings, including steel-framed skyscrapers.) Adler's father had the satisfaction of having his son build a new synagogue for
his congregation before he died in 1891.
American architect Frank Lloyd Wright went to work for Adler
and Sullivan and received his training from them. In 1895, Adler and
Sullivan dissolved their partnership. Adler was involved in all of the
architects' organizations and wrote articles on architecture.
Adler was a hero in the Civil War, an expert in acoustics and a
pioneer in the development of steel-framed buildings and skyscrapers.
His work and legacy is a valuable contribution to the development of
America. He died at the age of 56, on April 16, 1900.
Sources: This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism
included in Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America : 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, © 1996,
written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated
by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime
Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.