The Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor

Michigan’s Wolverine football town has magical Fairy Doors placed on shops and buildings. Leave gifts, drawings and notes. Fairy Door map is family fun. For years now, fairy wings have fluttered about in the Ann Arbor night. Most people in this college football town are accustomed to a roar coming from “The Big House.” The Michigan Wolverines stadium recently sat 114,804 boisterous fans. But it’s a child’s squeal that brings a smile when a whimsical six-inch fairy door is discovered on a downtown Ann Arbor establishment, making this a delightful place to live and visit for all ages.

Fairy Door History

This fairy door “tale” began in 1993 when Ann Arbor resident, Jonathan B. Wright, made a tiny hallway closet for children’s use in his century-old home shared with a wife and her daycare facility. Days later, the children discovered a six-inch fairy door adjacent to the closet. Multiple and unexplained fairy doors appeared in the Wright home thereafter.

Since 2005, fairy doors have popped up mysteriously all around Ann Arbor. The first was spotted outside Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea on West Washington Street only to disappear and reappear later. Then more doors emerged, each crafted for its habitat. The fanciful landmarks are now part of the city’s architecture. Grown-ups stoop to look at most of them while children merely kneel. And the doors keep coming. What better way to discover this city than on a Fairy Door hunt?

Fairyologist Jonathan B. Wright

Although Wright doesn’t deny he has a special association with urban fairies and accepts the title of “certified fairyologist,” he’s evasive about being their fairy godfather, so to speak. Since he’s a trained illustrator and graphic designer, he does feel comfortable crafting fairy memorabilia and officiating over the fairy-door phenomena. He and his wife are fascinated with mythology and a fairy story, which explains his all-things-fairy Web site. He authored Who’s Behind the Fairy Doors?

Notable Ann Arbor Fairy Doors

The Peaceable Kingdom at 210 S. Main Street could be Fairy Door Central. One door is outside and two are inside. It’s possible to see a fairy scene inside all doors. The shop is stocked with nostalgia items, Mexican folk art, fine jewelry and countless trinkets. Children purchase fairy gifts and place them on the doors’ landing. The shop sells fairy door postcards and has a fairy guest book.

Nicola’s Books, located in the Westgate Shopping Center, has a fairy door over a mantel. It’s a dark-colored door with a gold knocker and doorknob and flanked by two fairy tale books. At the Ann Arbor District Library, a double-sided door is in the Fairytale and Folklore section. Look inside the door to see a room filled with books and furniture.

Other notable doors can be found at Red Shoes Homegoods. Its red door matches the shop’s. At the Michigan Theatre on E. Liberty Street, there’s a small fairy door at the base of the outside door. Sometimes movie tickets hang from the door opening. As for other doors, it’s up to the Ann Arbor visitor to find their own.

Fairy Door Information

At some fairy door establishments a guest book is available to sign or to ask fairy questions. Many are answered, perhaps by the fairyologist. A Fairy Door map is free and postcards sold. Leaving a small gift or drawing beside the fairy door is welcomed. The doors have copycats about town, many put in a shop by the owner. The iconic doors are showing up in nearby towns or in a field or just about anywhere. But it’s Ann Arbor that lays claim to their origin. Jonathan B. Wright’s Web site is chockfull of fairy lore plus a free map where to find his (oops, not “his” but “the”) fairy doors. For all other Ann Arbor information, contact the city’s tourist bureau.

Leave a Comment