The Frances Adler Elkins Collection consists of a broad range of materials created and accumulated by Frances Adler Elkins
and Nelle Currie Fry throughout their professional lives as interior designers. The collection was donated to Monterey Peninsula
College at various times by Elkins and Fry family members.
Frances Adler Elkins was born in Milwaukee on November 7, 1888. Her brother, David Adler (1882-1949), was a prominent Chicago
architect. When David Adler studied architecture in Paris, from 1908 to 1911, Elkins joined him on many of his trips through
Europe where her interest in design and art was cultivated. Following her divorce in the early 1920’s from Felton Broomall
Elkins (1889-1944), a polo player, painter and playwright, Elkins turned her interest and knowledge of decorating into a business.
She moved to Monterey, living in the adobe home she and her husband had purchased (Casa Amesti), and began to decorate the
historic home, drawing attention to her work from many Pebble Beach and San Francisco socialites. Eventually she would establish
her studio (Casa Blanca) in Monterey at Stevenson House and later on Old Fishermen’s Wharf. Elkins collaborated with David
Adler on about 15 large houses in Illinois, New York, California, and elsewhere. She had numerous private commissions of her
own, both for private homes and commercial buildings. Elkins died in San Francisco on August 26, 1953.
Significance: Elkins was one of the most celebrated American interior designers of the early-to-mid twentieth century. She
worked with the interior designer, Jean-Michel Frank and the sculptor, Alberto Giacometti, who produced fixtures for her commissions.
Her first commissions were for residential designs for friends and social acquaintances, but she later obtained larger-scale
commercial work including hotels and retail stores. Her bold and innovative style, combining traditional and contemporary
styles, was her hallmark. Her work in California was far ahead of its time and influenced other decorators around the country.
Dorothea Walker, a contributing editor to House & Garden magazine believed that Frances Elkins was “the first great California
decorator.” Nelle Currie Fry worked in San Francisco for the city's leading designers prior to moving to Monterey in 1948.
In Monterey she helped to run the design house of Frances Elkins, assisting her in many of her large commissions. In 1976
she was named Carmel's Woman of the Year.
The collection was donated to Monterey Peninsula College at various times by Elkins and Fry family members.
The Monterey Peninsula College Library Archives & Special Collections Department extends their appreciation to the Monterey
Peninsula College Foundation and the Thomas Doud, Sr. and Anita M. Doud Fund of the Community Foundation for Monterey County
for their generous support of this special project.