Susan Dart McCutcheon was the wife of John T. McCutcheon, Jr., the former editor of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial page and archivist in the 1980s. After raising her family in Lake Forest, Susan Dart, the name she wrote under, produced a natural foods and cooking syndicated column for the Chicago Tribune (1976-81), and wrote a “Forest Ranger” column for the Lake Forester newspaper. She is also the author of several books published in the 1980s and 1990s. Along with advocating for healthy diets, she was active in saving from demolition the 1899 Lake Forest City Hall. She moved to North Carolina with her husband in the late 1980s and continually returned to spend many summer vacations in Lake Forest.
As she described in her partly autobiographical study of her brother, architect Edward Dart, Susan Dart was a native of New Orleans. She graduated from Connecticut College and met her husband, a young Navy officer in New Orleans in the early 1940s. They married in 1943 and moved to Lake Forest in 1947, living in a cottage on the Aldis Compound on Illinois Road called Bird Cottage, which has since been demolished.
In the 1950s, Susan Dart McCutcheon raised a family and moved into a new brick ranch style home (W. Laurel Ave., demolished) designed by her modernist architect brother, Edward Dart. She never considered herself a socialite, but she did belong to both the Onwentsia club in Lake Forest and to Chicago’s Friday Club. In 1963 she received a master’s in English from Northwestern University, and she then taught at Ferry Hall (now merged into Lake Forest Academy) and Barat College.
Her local column, “Forest Ranger,” for the local Lake Forester in the early 1970s was succeeded by her syndicated “Natural Foods” column from 1976 to 1981. In these later columns she crusaded for healthy eating based on foods not contaminated by little-understood and potentially-harmful chemicals. Through her accessible writings about practical recipes she showed the way for individuals to live better and healthier lives.
By 1980 to 1997, Sart devoted herself to writing books focusing on subjects like family, local community, architectural and organizational history that remain essential sources. These are:
Evelyn Shaw McCutcheon and Ragdale. (Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society, 1980).
Market Square. (Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society, 1984).
Friday Club: The First Hundred Years, 1887-1987. (Chicago; the Club, 1987).
Supplement to Edward Arpee, Lake Forest, Illinois: History and Reminiscences, 1861-1961. (Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society, 1991).
Edward Dart, Architect. (Evanston: Evanston Publishing, 1993).
The Old Home Place. (Louisville, KY: Chicago Spectrum Press, 1997).
The first book Evelyn Shaw McCutcheon and Ragdale, was also the first book published about Ragdale, a decade prior to Alice Hayes and Susan Moon, Ragdale: A History and Guide(Open Books and the Ragdale Foundation, 1990). This pamphlet preserved lore about her mother-in-law and her family and the family compound, Ragdale, by then housing the Ragdale Foundation(founded 1976 by Alice Hayes) in Shaw’s 1897 completed English Arts & Crafts summer home.
This book about the Shaw family and Ragdale led into the second book as Susan Dart delved further into the work of architect Howard Van Doren Shaw and his arguably most notable project, Market Square(1916), the model for all subsequent shopping centers. For her work on Shaw she mounted a campaign to document photographically as much of Shaw’s local (Lake Forest, Chicago) work as possible and she engaged volunteer and professional photographers including Barbara Wood-Prince, Bert Congdon, Jean McMasters Grost, and others (available in Special Collections).During the period of Dart’s pursuit of material on Shaw and Market Square, she also stepped in to fight against demolition of the 1899-completed City Hall itself part of the architectural context that shaped the nearby Market Square design by Shaw.
Disappointed in the physical presentation of her first book, she took control of the production of Market Square (1984). She engaged book producer Frank Williams and also eminent book designer R. Hunter Middleton, both of Chicago, to create an appropriately respectful form for her study of Shaw’s significant 1916 first and model shopping center. She accompanied review of the project’s history and architecture with a biographical sketch of the architect. Once this was published she donated her Shaw and architecture material, along with the production and design records with Williams and Middleton, respectively, here in Special Collections, 1984. Also included were other local materials and photographs, including 1907-08 Onwentsia horse show stereo views identified by her late mother-in-law, Evelyn Shaw McCutcheon. Deposited the year after the Donnelley Library opened its first Special Collections reading room and new closed stacks in 1983, this became a major building block of the College library’s Special Collections of local materials (architect Shaw having also designed seven campus buildings).