Home Miniature house The fairy tree brings whimsy and smiles to the Evanston neighborhood

The fairy tree brings whimsy and smiles to the Evanston neighborhood


As the last bell rings at Orrington Elementary School, crowds of children begin their march through the neighborhood. A young girl with round glasses and a big smile goes by on a scooter and shouts: “That’s where the fairies live!

She gazes at an ornately decorated tree located at 2608 Orrington Ave., a few blocks from the Northwestern campus. Shelley Tench, owner of the Orrington house, calls it a “fairy tree”.

This whimsical neighborhood attraction is decorated with fairy figurines, ornaments and miniature furniture. A sign reads “stay, play, take something, leave something”. Passers-by continually add trinkets and art projects around the trunk.

Tench, an Evanston resident since 1998, began decorating the tree in 2017 after a trip to Ireland. The country is known for having fairy trees dotting its countryside, often inspired by folk stories.

“I always try to incorporate something that I’ve seen on my travels into the house, just to be kind of like a little keepsake for me,” Tench said.

She started decorating the tree with just one element – ​​a fairy looking down from one of the leafy branches – and has been adding to it ever since. Her four children grew up helping to change the decorations with the seasons.

Five years later, the tree is covered with shelves containing gnomes and miniature houses. Toy trailer mini-campers are parked next to the trunk, and neighborhood kids drop painted rocks. Lights hang in the branches to shine at night, and a chime blows in the wind.

Tench said she hopes the tree inspires people to take a moment in their day to pause and smile.

“It’s not just for kids…it’s also for adults,” she said. “They disconnect from whatever might be going on in their life, and they go out and have a good time there.”

Tench said she often receives positive comments about the tree and sees people taking pictures. A passing woman once told him that seeing a sign on the tree that said “Be You” had completely changed his day for the better.

“It’s a fantastic addition to the neighborhood,” said neighbor Kiera Madden. “I just remember seeing it during COVID, and it brightened everyone’s mood. We’ve all been on a lot of family walks and it’s made us smile.

Tench also included interactive elements to engage the community and bring the space to life. She laminates drawings that the children stick to the tree to protect them from the rain, and she has answered notes from children asking the fairies questions.

She once left out a stash of Matchbox cars with a sign saying the fairies were having a car sale.

Sophomore communications student Ellie Dillenburg said she saw the tree on walks. The fairy tree brings back childhood memories of building fairy houses in a tree stump on her grandparents’ property, she said.

“Sometimes in nice neighborhoods people can get too caught up in everything looking perfect, but that’s not fun anymore,” Dillenburg said. “I think it’s better to spark joy than to make sure everything is perfect.”

Dillenburg said she recommends other University students take a walk up to the tree to explore a new part of Evanston.

“Take a selfie with it,” Dillenburg said. “It’ll be fun!”

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Twitter: @ZMilfred

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