Rarely seen, they are reported to be only 5-inches tall, mischievous, charming, fond of gifts, interested in history, architecture and art. And the story goes, after hundreds of years some have begun to leave their ancestral rural communities in Ireland and England for American towns, including Healdsburg.
According to The Fairy Census, and the serious academic history edited by historian Simon Young and folklore researcher Ceri Houlbrook, “Magical Folk: British and Irish Fairies — 500 AD to the Present,” the Fae, aka fairies,’ immigration to the United States is fairly recent.
No one will say exactly when, but starting in 2017, people began to observe small “fairy doors” popping around downtown Healdsburg. The earliest confirmed door was by Holly Hoods, the museum curator and executive director.
“I was thrilled!” says Hoods. “It just magically appeared one day at our doorstep. It looks like they were trying to replicate the museum door. It is as dignified as our restored Carnegie Library Building. There is a small bust. I am not sure of who. Maybe a famous fairy. If we hadn’t been chosen, and knew how, we would have asked for one. We encourage all the fairies to come visit when they get settled.”
The museum staff celebrate the door by decorating it seasonally. A wreath and Christmas tree during the holidays. Flowers to welcome spring.
The next two doors to become generally known were at Toy Chest and Cupcake, a children’s clothing store. A sales associate at Cupcake, who declined to give her name, says she noticed the door around Halloween. She believes there were doors at more shops around the Healdsburg Plaza, some of which were dismantled, perhaps by people who didn’t know what they were.
But overall the town has been welcoming to the decorative little doors, and the idea of tiny creatures setting up shop.
“We’re delighted that Healdsburg has been chosen,” said Carla Howell, Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. “We are definitely a terrific place for fairies to live.”
She mentions the town library’s recent class on fairy house building as evidence of the town’s hospitality toward the diminutive folk, which is supposed to bring good luck. Howell wouldn’t venture a guess on who’s creating the doors exactly.
Healdsburg Police Sergeant John Haviland, 50, believes there’s an artistic hand behind the fairy doors “Knowing Healdsburg, I would suspect from the quirkiness that there’s an artistic local resident involved.”
When asked how he would investigate the mystery he said he wouldn’t. “Well, there’s no crime,” he said, “unless someone reported vandalism.”
Healdsburg joins a small list of towns in the United States and Ireland where urban fairy doors have been found: Alameda, Calif.; Ann Arbor, Berkley, Northville and Tecumseh, Mich.; Putnam, Conn.; Richmond, Ind.; Hemstead, N.Y.; Dublin, Ohio; Donegal Town, Ireland.
The Healdsburg fairy doors, like those in other towns worldwide, often share an architectural or design motif with host buildings.
At the Stafford Gallery owner Christina Stafford says their fairy door reflects the overall Greek Revival look of the building in addition to the eclectic curated collection of the art gallery.
“I love the fairy door,” Stafford says. “It was already here when we moved into the building. I added a painting of course, and a welcome mat and some topiary.”