1834 First settlers in Barrington, IL. The land is farmed.
1940 Elaine Silets’s brother, Sheldon Gordon, gets a Lionel Super Chief freight train for Christmas.
1941 American Chestnut tree plants itself.
1948 The land is subdivided and the original small farmhouse is built.
1971 The Silets family purchases the property, then located in unincorporated Barrington, IL, to use as a weekend and summer home in addition to an event venue. At the time of purchase, the property only comprises the original house, five acres, and the lake. Elaine’s husband, Harvey Silets, a world famous litigator and an amateur arborist, begins to realize his dream of planting rare trees, which he continues to do throughout his life. Before the original farmhouse even has a decent kitchen, the Orchard on the North Border is planted (instead). For her part, Elaine begins to design and conceive her future garden plan. After having lived in Paris for many years and having visited gardens around the world, Elaine decides to build a botanic garden in miniature. And, so begins a lifelong journey which is still going strong! (The detailed plantings around Wandering Tree Estate are re-designed by Elaine and changed every year.)
1972 Elaine and Harvey begin renting out the Estate for private corporate events, children’s parties, and weddings.
1973 The Silets children receive Lionel trains for Christmas and along with their parents and grandmother, they begin building a layout in the basement. This becomes Elaine’s training ground. With advanced degrees in fine art, she is well equipped to start working on the railroad.
1984 Wandering Tree Estate first begins opening its gardens for a yearly charity benefit for Elaine’s favorite causes. Among them are: The Garden Conservancy; scholarships for talented children to attend world renowned Interlochen Center for the Arts (Elaine has endowed 6 permanent scholarships at Interlochen with the proceeds); Catholic Charities’ shelters for women and children; Tickled Pink for women’s cancer; Hands of Hope that benefits starving women and children in Africa; etc. Over the years, opening the Estate for charity has become the highlight of the Wandering Tree event season.
1992 Elaine starts “Huff & Puff Industries, Ltd.” and builds her first Garden Railway. Neiman Marcus (her first client) gives her a two-page spread in their famous “Christmas Book” catalog, and she begins to build Garden Railways nationwide.
2013 Over 7,500 people attend the one day charity event at Wandering Tree Estate – the most visitors ever to the Estate in one day.
2017 Launch of new website. We continue to host extraordinary events each year!