Tag: David Adler

Lake Bluff’s Sheridan Road

                  From the Comfort of Your Armchair


David Adler’s Port O’ Call, one of his best works”





By Megan McKinney


Classic Chicago readers have responded so enthusiastically to our two recent features based on the Lake Bluff History Museum’s Walking Tours, we are  embarking a third tour today. The previous jaunts were to accompany actual walks along Green Bay Road and Moffett Avenue, each lined with residential estates. However, today’s adventure was developed from the outset as an “Armchair Tour” and is perfect for a mid-winter virtual spin without leaving the comfort and warmth of home.

Much of the activity in the Sheridan Road segment centers within the area known as Crab Tree Farm. This lovely stretch began in the 19th century as a 370 acre dairy farm belonging to Judge Henry W. Blodgett. The judge was known as president of the rail line that would become the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, as well as much else, including having Blodgett Avenue named for him.

It is interesting to learn that “the area north of Crab Tree Farm was forest and farmland until the1921 development of Shoreacres Country Club.” During that time a number of estates also appeared along the lakefront.  The handsome clubhouse is associated with both its original architect, David Adler, and the distinguished current architect Laurence Booth who–following a 1983 fire–rebuilt the club while retaining the character of Adler’s design.

Grace Durand

Following Judge Blodgett’s 1905 death, a 250 acre portion of his property was sold to Scott and Grace Durand, who gave it the Crab Tree Farm name and continued operating the expanse as a dairy farm. Scott Durand was owner of S. S. Durand, a substantial Chicago sugar brokerage and, although Grace was not the only area woman running a dairy, she benefited from agricultural training and her business attracted immense press attention both then and through the years since. Among the early magazine articles about Grace and the dairy were features in Farm Illustrated, circa 1910, and The Field Illustrated Magazine of February 1926.

Grace with her prize herd of Guernsey cows.

The area has continued to receive media notice throughout the 20th century and into the 21st. This is largely because of the powerful personalities associated with the immediate region.

A 1910 Illustration of Solon Beman’s restored Crab Tree Farm

Not the least of these is the architect Solon S. Beman, who designed new farm buildings for Grace following a 1910 fire. Beman, George Pullman’s favorite architect, designed the town of Pullman, south of Chicago, and its adjacent factory, as well as the impressive Pullman Building, which once stood on Michigan Avenue at the south corner of Adams Street.  

Port O’ Call

By 1924, Chicago’s golden couple, William McCormick Blair and his wife the former Helen Bowen, had purchased 11 lakefront acres of Crab Tree Farm from the Durands and commissioned David Adler to design a summer house in the space. The Blairs’ winter residence, 1416 Astor, was the work of architect Arthur Heun and continues to be—arguably–Chicago’s loveliest single family home.

Although not a part of the tour, 1416 Astor is so much entwined in the William McCormick Blair legend, we include this image.

The Blairs’ close personal friend David Adler did not disappoint the pair in creating a North Shore rival to Astor Street. According to authors of Lake Bluff Walking Tours, “Architectural historians agree that Adler’s charming colonial William McCormick Blair house is ‘one of his best works.’” The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

Crab Tree Farm Courtyard

Lake Bluff Walking Tours authors also tell us, “Between 1950 and 1959, William Blair purchased most of Crab Tree Farm from the Durand estate, including the farmhouse, barns and courtyard that were designed by Solon Beman.”  They add that he “deeded 20 acres of Crab Tree Farm lakefront property just south of Port O’ Call to his son, Edward.”

Edward McCormick Blair commissioned the firm Keck & Keck, led by George Fred Keck and his brother William, to design the striking house above. An added asset of an armchair tour is that not only can properties away from the exploration area be included in the tour but also those that no longer exist. The stunning house on its generous spread of lakefront land was demolished in 2016 because, amazingly, it did not find a buyer following the owner’s death.

This completes our exploration of the Lake Bluff Walking Tour of Sheridan Road; however it is not the end of the legend of Crab Tree Farm, which under the guidance of another towering Chicago personality, the late John H. Bryan, was brought into the 21st century and another awesome dimension.

John H. Bryan

The History Tours are sponsored by Abbott honoring Lake Bluff’s recent 125’s anniversary. Lake Bluff’s 125th Anniversary celebration was presented by Northwestern Medicine. The tours upon which the Classic Chicago features have been based may be downloaded without charge from Google Play or Apple’s App Store. Narrators for the segments are Lise Dominique and Walt Sloan.


Edited by Amanda K. O’Brien

Photo Credits: Lake Bluff History Museum



Phil Liederbach: David Adler Heir







Builder of the beautiful, dean of detail, and mastermind of the marvelous, architect Phil Liederbach is considered by many to be a successor in both the high style and prodigious talent of the very biggest names of Chicago’s greatest 20th-century builders. A founder in 1991of Liederbach & Graham LLP, Liederbach and R. Michael Graham are known for carefully crafted buildings, whether new structures or restorations. Their houses and apartments mirror their sophisticated clientele, and they keep their firm small in order to personally address each project.


“The carefully composed facade is made of reclaimed Chicago common brick and emblematic of our appreciation of the past,” says Liederbach of this North Shore residence. Photo by Tony Soluri

“Every project is different, and we really want it to be a reflection of the individual. For that reason, there’s not really one particular style to our work that people would recognize. We do aim for the level of detail of the 1920s and ’30s, and the higher skill level of the craftsmen of that day. Our clients are very conscious of good design,” Liederbach says.

A recent Liederbach Instagram post featured a drawing of a handrail accompanied by the note: “a molding that must be kind to the hand is worth spending a little extra time on.” Other posts praise the works of major Chicago architects who have inspired, such as Harrie T. Lindeberg, Henry Ives Cobb, and Edwin Hill Clark. He travels frequently both home and abroad for other architectural inspiration.


Liederbach: “The bath needn’t be ordinary. Here a mecurial white and black marble sets the tone.” Photo by Eric Piasecki.

Looking with Liederbach through images of his work on a recent Zoom conversation, I as particularly struck by the perfectly scaled rooms I saw. Timbered ceilings, nickel silver, white oak floors, and Moroccan tiles accenting a kitchen were all elegant elements casting their spells.

Jay Krehbiel, CEO of Chicago-based Hindman Auctions, and a client and friend of Liederbach’s agrees, saying, “I think of Phil as the true heir to David Adler’s practice here in Chicago. Anyone can build a big house, and many do—most of them are just vulgar. What Phil understands, but that seems lost today, is that the details make a space exceptional, and a space can be exceptional, whether it is big or small. A string course on a building, the bonding pattern and color of bricks, a finial or inlay on a stair rail: that is what Phil’s eye is drawn to and what he brings carefully, yet boldly into his work.”

Liederbach confirms this influence, sharing, “A new Georgian townhouse we designed recently in Lincoln Park has David Adler’s influence on it. I was informed by the four row houses by Adler on Lakeview.”

At the University of Illinois Chicago Circle campus, Liederbach studied with Stanley Tigerman: “He was not only a renowned architect but an art historian and philosopher. I learned to step outside the profession.”


Phillip Liederbach.

Prior to starting his own firm, Liederbach worked at Hammond, Beeby and Babka, now HBRA Architects. He shares an memory of his early days: “Our first house was built 25 years ago for Dennis and Connie Keller with Nancy Traylor as interior designer, and they still love it. At the time we interviewed the kids, it was built for the next generation as well.”

Liederbach, who divides his work in thirds between the city, suburbs, and out of state, is currently working on homes on Lake Michigan, in Wisconsin, and in New York. And no two are truly alike: “Our clients have families of all sizes, it runs the gamut. One family told me that they liked things cozy, and then said they loved hosting dinner parties for 45 and parties for 100-200.”


Liederbach: “A highlight of this library is the paneling and bookcases covered in hand-stitched oxblood leather. It was inspired in part by what is possibly the most chic library in America. One designed by David Adler and Frances Elkins for the Kersey Coates Reed House circa 1931 and made by the firm of Adolphe Chanaux in Paris.” Photo by Eric Piasecki.y

The partnerships Liederbach creates with interior designers show his ability to insure the overall beauty of the finished home. This dedication to collaboration is mindful of the professional relationship of David Adler to his sister, the legendary designer and arbiter of taste, Frances Elkins, which lasted for over three decades.

But collaboration is often a learned experience and one that takes time, and finding the right fit: “I started out wanting to do everything my way. Then I was very lucky to work with a legend, Imogen Taylor, Colfax & Fowler’s principal designer. That’s where I learned to be a better collaborator.”

Taylor, who often ran 10 projects simultaneous from Chelsea to Chicago, encouraged Liederbach to look to the finished product when an interior designer has completed that work. “I may not know the color of the final drapery fabric, but I know to space the moldings and spread the casings out so that they will work with the fabrics to make them sing,” he says.


“Luxurious materials deserve a great care. Each profile is drawn full size and every component made by the most talented craftspeople,” says Liederbach. Photo by Eric Piasecki.


“Our lovely clients even allowed us to design the hardware,” he adds. Photo by Piasecki.

“Phil is so talented, he always takes everything to the next level. He is praised as a classicist has traveled through Europe looking at great architecture, but he also does modern work so well,” shares interior designer and Classic Chicago columnist Jenny Brown. “He is very humble, always open to collaboration with the client and the designer, taking it all through his brilliant mind. Ideally, the architect and the designer should be on the same page. Phil makes that possible.”


“The architecture of the early colonies helped inspire this picturesquely composed clapboard home,” Liederbach explains. Photo by Hedrich Blessing.

Although he is regarded as a heir of David Adler in his classic approach and sense of detail, the variety of his work ranges from Art Deco designs in the 1929 Palmolive Building to the early colonial in Oakbrook to a Louis XVI-style home using La Lanterne in Versailles as precedent.

An example of this nod to classical style is the de Gournay hand-painted wallpaper Liederbach utilized to sublime success in a summer house inspired by an 18th-century garden folly in Salem.


“Every project should be a unique and result from a successful collaboration,” Liederbach says. “Here the architecture is enriched by the hand painted de Gournay wallpaper and paint colors introduced by the interior designer, the inimitable Colin Orchard, and the keen eye of our client and friend, the late John V. Crowe.” Photo by Tony Soluri.

Sometimes the architect must focus on bringing the outside in, through details inspired by nature, and other times the attention falls to a home’s surroundings: “Outdoor spaces are even more appealing due to the pandemic, and we love little gems of gardens—you can take delight in even small spaces,” he says. “We love to draw people to our windows.”

With a pitch perfect attention to detail and triumphant collaborations with some of the finest interior designers, landscape architects, builders, and importantly, many gifted craftsmen over the years, Liederbach and his talented partner, Michael Graham, have been creating work that will endure.


Liederbach & Graham, Architects is located at 500 North Wells Street, Chicago 60654. For more information, call 312-828-0900 or visit liederbachandgraham.com.