Fairy Doors Of Ann Arbor, Michigan — Children And Adults Embrace The Magic Of Urban Fairies

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, for over a decade, tiny “fairy doors” have been popping up around downtown. The fairy doors are built into local buildings that are home to shops and restaurants. They have created a new layer of what makes Ann Arbor a destination point municipality. According to a recent article in Shareably, the fairy doors are so cool that they are developing a “cult following.”

The fairy door fun began when Jonathan B. Wright, a father and a children’s book author, created a legend in real-time. He says that in the early 1990s, he discovered something strange in his house: a fairy door! He tells the stories of the first fairy doors in the same way reporters track Santa on Christmas Eve.

“1993 or so is when we first discovered one in our own home. Inside of that door is a stairway that leads up to yet another door that has been locked every time that we’ve checked.”

A decade later, Wright decided to share the fantasy of the fairy doors with the public. Now, as more shops fit their buildings with their own fairy doors, the public has been on the hunt to find new ones as they pop up. It’s relatively common for an entire downtown outing to involve searching for fairy doors in downtown Ann Arbor.

The first public fairy door reportedly popped up on April 7, 2005, outside Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea. Just over a week later, another fairy door appeared outside the Peaceable Kingdom.

Kids and adults leave tiny gifts outside the fairy doors, making the entire phenomenon very interactive, Wright says.

“There are multiple things that have surprise me about the whole phenomena. One is the concept of things that are left for the fairies, their gifts. Somewhat like a wishing well concept, I guess, that children for the most part leave coins and drawings and little tiny trinkets for the fairies in the hopes that it will be a gesture of good will.”

The local newspaper even features an index for locating the urban fairy doors of downtown Ann Arbor.

Not to be left out, the University of Michigan’s North Campus reportedly was the home of “engineering fairies.” U-M electrical engineering and computer science professor Rada Mihalcea and her daughter Zara told Mlive that they discovered a fairy door at the Beyster Building, and another fairy door was discovered not long after outside Chesebrough Auditorium.

The fairy doors are so popular that groups plan fairy door walking tours, and local residents have joined in by adding them to their homes and gardens.

According to Mlive, Ann Arbor-based furniture maker Bob Simmons has created a popular business making and selling fairy doors in his home wood shop. Backlund’s Backlands sells custom fairy doors that can be purchased by anyone, but businesses can have ceramic fairy doors made with their own logo or other branding to make the door especially unique. There is no shortage of artisans selling fairy doors these days.

Custom fairy doors.
Fairy doors for businesses.

Of course, anyone who is interested in handcrafting their own fairy doors can find countless instructional videos online.

Learn more about the fairy door phenomenon in Ann Arbor by watching the video below.

[Photo by Brian Wolfe | Flickr | CC 2.0 | cropped]