Robert Henry Allerton (1873–1964), born in Chicago, Illinois, United States, was the son and heir of First National Bank of Chicago founder Samuel Allerton. A philanthropist for most of his life, he left Allerton Gardens, Kauai, the Honolulu Academy of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Robert Allerton Park as legacies for the public to enjoy.
Robert Allerton enjoyed traveling to countries around the world. In these countries he would buy statues of all kinds, which were then placed in his estate. His estate is now called Allerton Park. Most of the statues are no longer in Allerton Park, but there are still a few left for tourists to look at.
Robert Henry Allerton was born on March 20, 1873, as the second child and only son to Samuel Waters Allerton (1828–1914) and Pamilla Thompson Allerton (1840–1880). Samuel Allerton was a self-made man who made his millions in land, livestock, banking, and other commercial enterprises. Pamilla Allerton died in 1880, five days before Robert's 7th birthday. Two years later, Samuel Allerton married Agnes Thompson, Pamilla's younger sister. Agnes Thompson Allerton (1858–1924) became mother, friend, and cultural mentor for her stepson/nephew. She kindled his interests in literature, music, gardening, and above all, visual arts.
The Allertons lived on Prairie Avenue in Chicago, which was the most fashionable residential street in that city in the 1800s. The Allertons were neighbors of Marshall Fields, the Pullmans, the Kimballs, and the Amours. Robert attended Allen Academy and Harvard School in Chicago, after which he and friend Frederic Clay Bartlett, were sent east to St. Paul's School, a prestigious college prep school in Concord, New Hampshire. The young Chicagoans decided not to go on to college, but rather to study art in Europe.
In 1922 he met John Gregg (1899–1986), an orphan and aspiring architect, who after the stock market crash of 1929, came to live with Allerton. He was to become his lifelong companion. After a change in Illinois law in 1959, he legally adopted Gregg as his son.
There is considerable speculation that the two men were, in actuality, lovers. They were, in effect, one of the most prominent same-sex couples of their day. However, due to the lack of marriage equality in that time, they became father and son in 1959.
Time in Europe
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Robert Allerton Park was begun in 1897 when Allerton decided to become a farmer. By 1914 his "farm" had grown to over 12,000 acres and became known as "The Farms". It is located at the University of Illinois near Monticello, Illinois. The botanical journal Allertonia and the two estate parks are named after Robert Allerton. Also the main building of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he served as the honorary president and trustee, was renamed the Allerton Building in his honor in 1968.
The former Hawaiian Royal tropical estate, located on the island of Kaua'i in Hawaii is now called the Allerton Garden. After John Gregg Allerton's death it became part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, with public tours.
- Bruce Shenitz. 2007. The Garden of Eden. Minus Eve. Out September 2007: 84-90.
- Allerton Garden
- John Gregg Allerton Memoir
- Robert Allerton: The Private Man and the Public Gifts, by Martha Burgin and Maureen Holtz, September 2009.