A Meatpacking Fortune Built this 1930s Chicago Mansion With a Silver Vault and a Room for Flower Arranging

Listing of the Day

Location: Lake Forest, Illinois

Price: $8.9 million

A 15,000-square-foot mansion set on 5.4 acres in the heart of Chicago’s affluent Lake Forest suburb has been left largely untouched since it was designed by the brother-sister team of David Adler and Frances Adler Elkins and built in 1934.

“All of the original details have been preserved and are intact, which is remarkable,” said listing agent Jennifer Ames, of Engel & Völkers Chicago. “It’s pretty much untouched—and that’s good because nobody screwed it up.”

Except for new countertops that were added at some point, the kitchen, the butler’s pantry and all of the bathrooms are just as they were originally outfitted in the 1930s, she said.

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An expansive stairway area with original plaster vines climbing up the walls leads to the second floor.

Jennifer Ames

Other original details include imported English paneling, exotic marbles, ornate plaster moldings and decoration, original light fixtures, nine uniquely designed fireplaces, wood doors and cabinetry, custom millwork and a Versailles patterned hardwood floor, according to the listing. With a nod to “Downton Abbey,” the service area also features a breakfast room, a silver vault and a flower arranging room, and the third floor holds a gift-wrapping room and a walk-in cedar closet for out-of-season clothing.

The flower arranging room is on the ground floor.

Jennifer Ames

This Green Bay Road house had a rare passenger elevator, and it was one of the first to have central air conditioning and heat, Ms. Ames said. 

Adler was known for his country houses in Chicago’s northern suburbs, she said. About one-third of his homes, including this one, were done in collaboration with his sister.

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“She was considered a little more flamboyant than her brother,” Ms. Ames said.

Known as Suffield House, the home was commissioned by Lola Hughes Sheldon, the wife of American meatpacking magnate J. Ogden Armour. She grew up in the Connecticut town of Suffield and her family had deep roots there.

Through poor investments, Armour lost a $150 million fortune, however, his widow made a good deal of money by investing in commercial real estate after he died in 1927, according to published reports. 

She lived there into the 1950s, and the house has had just two owners since then, Ms. Ames said. The current owner, who added the pool and the pool house in the same style as the house, has been there for almost 50 years.

The four-level house, which has a white-washed brick exterior, is perfectly symmetrical, she said. From the front door, you enter a grand foyer, designed with a so-called women’s reception room on the left and one for men on the right.

The foyer offers men’s and women’s reception rooms.

Jennifer Ames

A columned entry leads to a 66-foot-long gallery hall that runs through the center core of the house.

Opposite the entry is a dramatic blue sunroom with a black and white marble floor and unusual plaster moldings and sconces, Ms. Ames said. This room, which opens to a large terrace and then down to the pool, is “very, very classic Frances Elkins.”

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They varied the ceiling heights in each room, depending on its size and intended use, she said.

Other ground-floor spaces include a 40-foot-long living room with a fireplace, a formal dining room with a mantelpiece and paneling by the renowned 17th- and 18th-century English woodcarver Grinling Gibbons and an oak-paneled library with plank floors salvaged from a schooner, according to Ms. Ames.

The home has nine uniquely designed fireplaces, including this one in the dining room.

Jennifer Ames

“It’s a great house for anybody who entertains,” she said.

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An expansive stairway area with original plaster vines climbing up the walls leads to the second floor, which has five en-suite bedrooms including a large primary suite. This level also holds a two-bedroom staff apartment with a kitchen.

The third floor has a two-bedroom with a living room and an eat-in kitchen, an office, a walk-in cedar closet and an exercise room.

The lower level is mostly utilitarian except for a wood-paneled rec room with a fireplace. There is also a laundry center, a wine cellar and several storage rooms.


The 15,000-square-foot house has seven bedrooms, eight full bathrooms and three partial bathrooms. It sits on a 5.4-acre lot.

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Amenities include a pool and spa, a pool house, a carriage house, a detached four-car garage, a bentgrass lawn with a putting green, a two-bedroom staff apartment, a two-bedroom in-law apartment, nine fireplaces, an elevator that services all four levels, an office, an exercise room, a basement rec room, a wine cellar and a generator.

Neighborhood Notes 

The home is less than a mile from downtown Lake Forest and it’s walkable to the commuter rail station, Ms. Ames said.

“Lake Forest is a community with beautiful trees and grounds,” she said. “It has a sense of community, but it’s also very serene and private.” 

It’s about a 45-minute drive into Chicago during light-traffic times, she said.

Agent: Jennifer Ames, Engel & Völkers Chicago 

View the original listing.

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