Wednesday, April 20, 2022

If Trees Could Talk

First Place Book Awarded

You are Invited to join us:
Art and Authors Carol Orange and MArgot McMahon in conversation at the Irish American Heritage Center
April 28th 7:00  

Earth Day Celebration of Ida B. and Gwendolyn: Two activist Chicago Writers
April 30th, 11:00-4:00

  • 7:00-8:00 p.m

Winnetka Public Library Presentation

An Introduction to the Margot McMahon Collection

  • Choose your heirloom and begin to write your story
  • Thursday, June 9th
  • 7:00-8:00 p.m
Copyright © *2022* *SculptureworksLLC*, All rights reserved.
 *May Newsletter*

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Friday, April 1, 2022

Mac and Irene are 100!

Let's celebrate!

Lake Forest Library Introduces, on April 10 at 2:00, The Magot McMahon Collection of three books published by Aquarius Press in 2021: If Trees Could Talk, Mac and Irene:A WWII Saga and Airdrie. Generations of one artistic family who left the clues of untold stories in the things gifted. Choose your family heirloom to reveal how it informs your family history then rsvp by clicking the photo for an in-person event. Margot will provide the paper and pencils for you.

Sunflower Exhibit for Ukraine
Art Pop 
724 Western Ave, Lake Forest, IL
Donate to Ukraine Here
Art and Authors: Carol Orange and Margot McMahon
A conversation showing how art reveals the clues to their mystery and history writing.
Eventbrite RSVP
Ida B. and Gwendolyn Eventbrite RSVP
Art and Authors Hybrid Zoom Conversation
Watch how Four Authors Interpret Art for their Writing.
Watch Art and Authors here
1851 NY Bloomer read by Betsey Means of Womanlore and Margot
Arts Club of Chicago "OneMic•3 mins• 20 seconds" Event
Watch 1851 NY Bloomers Here to purchase books

Ida B. and Gwendolyn

Earth Day tribute to Two Activist Writers


Saturday April 30th Gwendolyn Brooks Park, 4601 Greenwood, Chicago, IL 
11:00-1:00 ASAP! Adopt Sapling Project Workshop with Green Blocks Initiative YBG-GreenBlocks Initiative: Share Your Ecological Actions at 
2:00 Little Black Pearl Carver 47 Café lunch
3:00-4:00 Michelle Duster, Ida B Wells Monument 37th and Langley

Gwendolyn Brooks: The Oracle of Bronzeville in Gwendolyn Brooks Park and Ida B. Wells: The Light of Truth Monuments honor two truthful Chicago writers with their life stories forged into sculptural forms. Michelle Duster will speak at the monument in her great-grandmother's name.  Sculptors, Richard Hunt and Margot McMahon portrayed the writers' lives in interactive three dimensional tributes. Please join us for caring for saplings at the Gwendolyn Brooks Monument at 11:00 and at 3:00 hearing from Michelle Duster at the Ida B. Wells Monument.

The Margot McMahon Collection
Margot McMahon
Copyright © *|2022* *|SculptureworksLLC|*, All rights reserved.
*|April Newsletter|* *|LF Library, Irish Am Heritage Center, Ida B. and Gwendolyn|*

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Saturday, February 26, 2022


‘There is so much demolition’ of historic houses in Chicago’s suburbs. This Lake Forest home is a notable exception. Daniel I. Dorfman

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By Daniel I. Dorfman Pioneer Press |


Feb 24, 2022 at 2:25 PM

Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Chicago Tribune.

Lake Forest’s Abel E. and Mildred Fagen House appeared destined for demolition, deemed too expensive to repair. However, the house got a reprieve when a local architect purchased the one-story home in embarking on a renovation. - Original Credit: Lake Forester (Eileen Campbell / HANDOUT)

Not that long ago, Lake Forest’s Abel E. and Mildred Fagen House appeared destined for demolition, deemed too expensive to repair.

However, the house got a reprieve when a local architect purchased the one-story home in embarking on a renovation. Those efforts paid off earlier this month when it was one of 15 Illinois sites placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

“It is really exciting to be able to save a house that might have been demolished or severely changed,” said that local architect Chris Enck. “There is so much demolition of historic and existing houses in the suburbs, especially as the housing market has taken off in the last couple of years.”


Sitting on 21⁄2 acres in the 1700 block of Devonshire Lane in the western part of the city, the Fagen House was designed by the Keck & Keck architectural firm, combining modernist style with influences from noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

In its announcement of the selection to the National Register, the IDNR mentioned how the house features natural materials such as limestone, cedar and glass, with a design displaying careful attention to detail, while not using historic references.

Local architectural historian Arthur Miller provided additional details on the styles used by the Keck & Keck team, whose homes dot the North Shore.

“This house uses the modernist international style with walls of windows on the south, with the great big Frank Lloyd Wright overhang, immense roofs,” said Miller, who is also a member of the Lake Forest Preservation Foundation.

Miller spoke admiringly of the original placement of the roofs allowing for smart energy use.

“That meant low-angle winter sunlight could get into the house, but high summer sunlight couldn’t get into house,” Miller said.

The home’s history goes back over 70 years as designed in 1948, the Fagens were the client/residents as Mildred Fagen was a prominent figure in the local arts community and served on a committee at Lake Forest College, according to Miller.

Yet many years later, a cloud began to hang over the home’s future in an era of redevelopment, combined with the original property being subdivided, according to Miller.

Miller recounted how the house then appeared to be safe from demolition when notable Chicago artist Franklin McMahon and his wife Irene moved in approximately 30 years ago, according to Miller. It then received recognition from the local preservation foundation for historic importance and its condition.

But after the McMahon sold the house, new problems surfaced when someone rented it. “Someone was camping out there and destroying it,” Miller said.

As the condition of the house deteriorating combined with the effects of the 2008 financial crash on the greater real estate market, Miller acknowledged he was resigned to demolition because of economics and the high costs of preservation.

That is when Enck entered.


Enck, a preservation architect, who once moved a house from Wilmette to Evanston, and volunteers with Landmarks Illinois, discovered the Fagen house through that organization’s website.

Intrigued with the prospect of a renovation of a house with a distinctive exterior, notably the projecting triangular roof corners, Enck purchased the house in 2019.

Shortly after the purchase, Enck applied to have the house designated as a local landmark, which was approved in June 2019.

Like Miller, Enck admired Keck & Keck for their early sustainability practices.

“They were one of the first architecture firms with passive solar design to use the power of the sun to help heat the house,” Enck said. “They were really early in their time for doing that in the 1940s and 1950s.”

After the purchase, Enck and his associates faced a task of salvaging a house where the bathrooms and cabinets could be preserved, but the HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems needed to be replaced, as well as large chunks of the home’s interior.

Moreover, a new roof had to be installed.

The work began both inside and outside, with Enck crediting local architect John Eifler with the suggestion of removing non-original dark stain, thus highlighting a feature of the original construction.

“The natural cedar siding, and the stone, and the big walls on the side of the house were most striking from the exterior,” Enck said.

Enck said an area of the kitchen (which has been reconfigured) and flooring materials still need to be installed, but even with the coronavirus pandemic causing delays, he hopes the process will be completed within a couple of months, and he is now in negotiations to sell the house.

“It’s been a fun project to spend so much time in the space, and learning about the architects, and learning about the families who have lived there in the past,” Enck said.

The Fagen house joins over 25 other properties in the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff area listed on the National Registry, according to IDNR spokeswoman Jayette Bolinski.


Latest Lake Forest

‘There is so much demolition’ of historic houses in Chicago’s suburbs. This Lake Forest home is a notable exception.
Feb 24, 2022


Monday, January 3, 2022

The Morning Glory Project

Virtual Conversation with Betsy Graziani Fasbinder and Margot McMahon

The Morning Glory Project

We've been here before: unprecedented losses of friends and family, labor and material shortages, pandemics in 1919, worldwide migration of people, and moving from cities to rural communities. In If Trees Could Talk, one artistic Irish Catholic family from Northern Ireland shows how to bounce back.  

The Morning Glory Project (January 5, 2022): a conversation with Betsy Graziani Fasbinder and Margot McMahon reveals an insider's perspective of writing If Trees Could Talk. Launching on January 5th, this conversation will be available virtually.

Margot McMahon shares a brief summary of her Chicago Public Library presentation, A Chicago Aviation History that sets the scene for Mac and Irene falling in love with each other and airplanes. Their lifelong love of flying began in unprecedented times of great ingenuity. Please request If Trees Could Talk from your library,, or your local bookstore.


Before I was born, Mac and Irene revealed through journalism social injustices including Mac's drawing at the Emmett Till Trial for Life Magazine. In 1955 he captured the courtroom drama on a small pad of paper to upscale the images for pages of drawings of the defendants, jury, and Mose Wright. Irene was home with six children. The Chicago History Museum published an article about Mac's capturing the trial in graphite on paper.

If Trees Could Talk excerpt:
"Emmett was beaten in Leslie Milam’s shed, shot and mutilated, then found in the Tallahatchie River. Pencils slowed in the “Black” press section. Fabric rustled from the gallery in a squirming silence. Not a breath was drawn from those in the rear seats.

“Can you identify the men who came to your door?” the defense asked. Graphite scratching the textured paper interrupted the vacuum of breathing as Emmett’s uncle, Mose Wright, stood up. With a shaking arm, he pointed to the white men, Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam. “There’s he.”

“There, it happened!” Mac nearly said out loud. Mac’s pencil flew to capture the tension in the air. He shucked 300 years of United States history! he thought and drew. Mac’s graphite lines captured the electricity in the room in the form of the shaky, outstretched, and elongated arm, the force of gesture in his stance, the quaking suspenders on the pants. Then, a loud lurching thud was heard. Mose Wright sat. That thud told what strength it had taken for him to stand, point his finger, and state two words, “There’s he.”


Lake Forest Library will host (April 10, 2:00) Margot McMahon reading from If Trees Could Talk

Irish American Heritage Center will host (April) Carol Orange (A Discerning Eye) and Margot McMahon (If Trees Could Talk) in a conversation on gathering clues and writing from painting interpretations.
Updates will be posted through this QR code:


Please visit

Wednesday, December 1, 2021


If Trees Could Talk is Available

If Trees Could Talk is a hybrid historical fiction/memoir that uncovers family secrets through the clues discovered by internationally-acclaimed sculptor Margot McMahon. Contains original artwork by Mac and writings by Irene.

"This is all they left to follow the breadcrumbs of their life story...As I discover my Northern Irish Catholic roots, I realize my adventurous life has been a quest to understand my past."-the Author

"Irene winked in the photographs that ran in the Chicago TribuneNews Sun and Daily Herald. Mac attempted to calm the adrenaline triggered from the camera flashes. Only his eyes penetrated into the terror he squelched inside. The scapula hung under Mac's shirt; Irene's was in her clutch. All were celebrating the end of the war, rations, separation and coming together. Whoops and hoots, cascading rice as they ducked arm-in-arm through the gathered group of family friends on the Basilica steps. Irene's parents had also been married here in quieter, but just as uncertain times. 

Happy Holidays as you tour the 2021 AIRDRIE house!

Tour of Airdrie House; Rooms and Knobs 
Artists Book House
Black Friday Gift Shop 11/26
Evanston's Lighthouse Beach Please stop by and say hi!

Save the Date: The Morning Glory Project
January 02, 2022