Earlier this year, a teeny door that appeared on an elm tree became a hit attraction for Golden Gate Park visitors.
Situated between the de Young Museum and the Academy of Sciences, the mysterious “fairy door” prompted local adults, children and even national news reporters to ponder questions beyond the visual arts and observable sciences:
“Do magical realms exist? Are fairies real? And if so, can they grant me three ponies and a time machine?”
But after some Rec & Park drama that led to the door’s removal in April, fairy hunters will be thrilled to learn the original door’s creators have installed a brand new wee door in Golden Gate Park for us to find.
The “Faery Sanctuary,” built by Tony Powell and his six-year-old son Rio, features a polished, circular door that was installed Monday in a hush-hush spot not too far from the previous door at the Music Concourse.
According to Powell, the fairies requested a new home “more removed from the center of things.” He told SFBay:
“The Faeries are generally happy wherever they are […] But they thought it would be nice for the people who find them to be in a more relaxed and quieter place, thus able to hear the faery voices if they’ve an ear for it.”
If the first installation was like a garage studio in the Outer Sunset, the new sanctuary is more of a three-story mansion in Pac Heights.
The new door, installed at the end of a fallen eucalyptus log, opens to a hollowed out three-foot space where visitors can leave gifts and notes for the tree’s otherworldly inhabitants.
Unlike the first door, the new one features knobs on both sides. The addition, Powell said, was one he and his son hadn’t considered before:
“The knob on the inside allows the Faeries to pull the door shut from the inside and was something we had thoughtlessly neglected in our previous door.”
In order to avoid contention with parks officials, Powell ran by his latest design with Rec & Park officials before installing the project.
In accordance to code, the new design isn’t attached to a living tree and doesn’t obstruct any living thing or facility in the park.
In an email to SFBay, Powell wrote:
“I think [the latest door is] a nice cooperation amongst Nature and Humanity and Magic.”
Powell, the son of a carpenter, is a San Francisco native who grew up near Martinez. The 48-year-old works at a Richmond company that produces wood sealant for boats, and currently lives on a boat in the Bay while collaborating on the doors with his son Rio.
According to Powell, the original door was installed to share the duo’s love of ancient folklore. You may not be surprised at all to learn Rio’s favorite Shakespeare play is “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
But Powell said they couldn’t have guessed how warmly the public would embrace their project:
“We had no idea that so many other people would be so touched and amazed by it, and we have been touched and amazed in return.”
“The Faeries have been gladdened and entertained as well.”
So far, visitors have left offerings of food, drawings and messages of thanks, musings and questions for the fairies — so much so, that father and son have taken to translating the fairies’ answers into English and replying to the notes online.
With the popularity of the doors rooted, Powell said there are more projects in the works. He is even working on a short novel entitled “The Faery Door,” based on a real life fairy tale that takes place in Golden Gate Park.
As his little doors continue to provide a tangible gateway into our imaginations, Powell said magic and miracles do exist:
“You see, the real miracle is the tree itself, and the whole park, and actually the whole world. […] So that more people could open the door to magic, we gave them a door.”
If you’re interested in discovering the “Faery Sanctuary” this weekend, Powell suggests SFBay readers walk due West from the original fairy door, and the new location shouldn’t be too far away.
Take care not to bump into any trees, fences, elves or fairies, of course.