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.”
Where to find inspiration on North Bay garden tours
May is the month people like to pack up their cars, and possibly a picnic, and hit the road. Their destination? The homes of strangers who, for one day, invite the public to ogle their homes and admire their gardens.
But this year, two longtime favorite tours have been canceled.
Food for Thought has decided not to hold its Spring Home and Garden Tour, a fundraising staple for the Forestville Food bank for many years. Karen Van Dyke, development director for the nonprofit, said the agency is shifting its fundraising model and putting more energy into Dining Out for Life.
“We have a lot of growing happening at the agency right now and decided to move in another direction for funding opportunities this spring. That’s not to say it will always be,” she said.
The Sonoma County Medical Association Alliance Foundation also suspended its spring garden tour. Foundation President Patty Lyn Tweeten said the organization already had decided to cancel the 2018 tour and resume it in 2019 on an every other year basis. But after the October wildfires destroyed so many homes in Santa Rosa and the Sonoma Valley, the association decided to delay the tour indefinitely.
“In the county 200 physicians lost their homes and one-fifth of our members lost their homes too. And our last garden tour was in Fountaingrove,” she said.
Of the seven gorgeous gardens featured in the 2017 tour, three were destroyed by fire and one was heavily damaged. Of the 36 Alliance members who volunteered for the garden tour last year or who served on the committee, 12 lost their homes.
In the near future the Alliance has turned its focus to helping county physicians displaced by the fire. She said the organization is looking at some other project related to gardens, perhaps by donating landscape plants to fire victims tasked with replanting their gardens.
Despite the cancellations there are still a few other home and garden tours taking place this spring on the North Coast.
Eco-Friendly Garden Tour: Learn water-saving strategies and gardening tips from other homeowners during the free Eco-Friendly Garden Tour, featuring 18 gardens throughout Sonoma and Marin counties. The California Native Plant Society will present five California native gardens in Santa Rosa, and the Laguna Environmental Center in Santa Rosa will feature a Residential Landscape Design Display. The tour is hosted by the Sonoma-Marin Partnership, a group of 10 water utilities in Sonoma and Marin counties. The self-guided tour is free, but registration is required at savingwaterpartnership.org/eco-friendly-garden-tour. For more information, email email@example.com.
The Healdsburg Homes Tour: This is a chance to check out some of Healdsburg’s historic homes, including a settlement-era cottage built in 1864, and a gabled cottage built in 1866. Six homes are featured this year on the tour, put on by the American Association of University Women. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $45 in advance or $50 the day of the tour. Tickets can be purchased at Copperfield’s and Levin & Co. in Healdsburg. Check in is at the Healdsburg Museum, 221 Matheson St. Healdsburg.
Sea Ranch Architectural Tour and Wine Tasting: The Sea Ranch is world renowned for its environmentally-sensitive architecture and design. This annual self-guided tour put on by the Soroptimist of the Mendocino-Sonoma Coast features a number of significant homes both in Sea Ranch and along the North Coast. It ends with a wine tasting and silent auction at the Gualala Arts Center. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 12. Tickets are $60 in advance and $65 the day of the tour. Tickets can be purchased at Brown Paper Tickets, https://bpt.me/3349786.
Mendocino Coast Garden Tour: This year’s tour put on by the Mendocino Art Center includes hideaways from Albion to Fort Bragg, including a unique rock garden, the gardens at Digging Dog Nursery and a garden with views of the Albion Bridge. Ravens Restaurant at Stanford Inn by the Sea serves a benefit lunch the day of the tour from noon to 2 p.m. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 30. $20 for lunch. 707-937-5818, ext. 10, or 800-653-3328, ext. 10. Mendocinoartcenter.org.