The Mortons: David Adler and the Cudahys





By Megan McKinney


David Adler’s Lake Forest Estate for Joseph and Jean Morton Cudahy.


When Joy and Carrie Morton’s daughter, Jean, became the bride of meatpacking heir Joseph M. Cudahy in October 1904, it was a forerunner of the destination wedding. The wedding party, including members of two of Chicago’s great 19th century dynasties, and 100 distinguished guests traveled to Nebraska City and Joy’s expanded boyhood home, Arbor Lodge, for the ceremony.

The lush natural vegetation for which the Mortons were celebrated was augmented for the occasion by four carloads of palms and 8,000 roses. Tucked into the floral display were thousands of small incandescent lights, which switched on dramatically at the conclusion of the 4 pm ceremony.

Among the Chicago guests and family members at the ceremony were the groom’s parents, Michael and Catherine Sullivan Cudahy. Michael had been one of the four Cudahy brothers, Irish immigrants, who established the family business in 1887. Originally titled the Armour-Cudahy Packing Company, it would become the Cudahy Packing Co.—and by the early 1920s—one of the nation’s great food giants, with operations throughout much of the country.

The newlywed Cudahys soon settled in Omaha, where Joseph would supervise that portion of the family business, reinforcing Morton connections with the state in which Jean had spent childhood holidays at Arbor Lodge.     


Arbor Lodge.

A decade later, following their return to the Chicago area, Jean and Joseph commissioned the new architectural firm David Adler had established with Henry Dangler to design a French country estate in Lake Forest. Both the 1914 house and its grounds were spectacular; however, the immense back lawn is best known for being so expansive that it was large enough to be the site of a series of benefits staged by children of Onwentsia Club members.

If “dog and pony show” sounds like a vintage cliché, it was anything but in Lake Forest, where sons and daughters of privilege gained early philanthropic proficiency through money raised by these events. For skeptics, scrapbooks displaying pictures of families and pets under gaily striped tents erected on the Cudahy lawn may be examined today at the Chicago History Museum.


The rear of 275 Sussex Lane.

The estate was known as Innisfail, the first of two by the name the great architect would design for the couple in Lake Forest. The rear lawn of the eight-bedroom, 11-bath mansion stretched far beyond where this photographer stood. Jens Jensen designed the grounds, which also boasted a swimming pool and tennis court on property that had initially been 100 acres.

Adler installed the formal rooms of the French style mansion with 11-foot ceilings, gilt moldings, magnificent chandeliers, intricate parquet floors and multiple fireplaces.


Among Adler and Dangler’s 17 formal rooms was the above 41 x 21 foot salon.


Another view of the immense space.


Grander yet is the long ceremonial gallery, awaiting a reception line.


The stately library, one of many that would figure in the Morton world.

In 1930, the Cudahys were building again. When they felt the area around their David Adler house in Lake Forest had become too congested, the architect designed a second house, Innisfail II, for the couple. Again, it was classic French in style.   


One view of Innisfail II . . .

. . . and another. 


In addition to the two sequential Lake Forest estates, the couple also kept a house in Palm Beach and an apartment in Rosario Candela’s magnificent 1500 N. Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.


  A painting of Jean Morton Cudahy.


When Joy established the arboretum, he assured a seriousness to its management and a “long-term continuity of leadership,” by appointing seven family members and two Morton Salt executives to life terms on the board of trustees.

As the older of Joy Morton’s two children, Jean became board chairman after her father’s 1934 death; it was a position she would maintain for nearly 20 years. The following September, she announced her gift of an administration building to be built at the arboretum as a memorial to him.


Joseph Cudahy.

Although the Cudahys were childless, Jean’s life was filled with charitable boards, as was Joseph’s. He was president of both Cudahy Packing Company and Sinclair Refining Company, and he also led both the Chicago Historical Society and Lake Forest Hospital Association, and was a director of the Morton Salt Company. Joseph was 68 when he died in 1947.

In January 1953, shortly after arriving at their house in Palm Beach for the winter, Jean fell ill and remained so for the rest of the season. She died early the following April at 70.


Coming Up: Megan McKinney’s Classic Chicago series, The Mortons, will continue next week with a segment on Sterling Morton II, his wife, Preston, and their lively daughter, Suzette.


The gift of another Morton Arboretum board chairman.

Photo Credit:

Select images courtesy of the Sterling Morton Library

The Morton Arboretum.

Author Photo:

Robert F. Carl