State of Art: Fairy houses turn a normal Anchorage walking trail into something magical

a woman kneels at the entrance of a trail
Barbara Brown poses at the entrance to a trail lined with fairy houses at Russian Jack Park. (Ammon Swenson/Alaska Public Media)

If you’re walking in Anchorage’s Russian Jack Park this summer, you might come across a side trail with a birch bark sign that says “Fairies Live Here.”

A short walk up the narrow, winding path through the lush forest reveals miniature structures made from natural materials. Some look like fancy animal burrows and others look like mouse-sized houses adorned with moss and bark, but these homes are intended for fairy-folk.

Barbara Brown was at the park on a recent Friday setting up the trail and helping people build their own houses from materials she brought. She organized building the fairy trail after traveling and seeing similar projects in places like Oregon and Toronto.

“And then I said, okay, that’s it. This is too much fairy stuff. We gotta have one in Anchorage,” Brown said.

Brown pitched the idea to Anchorage’s Parks and Recreation Department and they recommended Russian Jack Park. After doing some research she learned fairy houses can be found around the world.

“And there are so many books about how to design them — building one out of pumpkins, building one out of logs — it’s huge,” Brown said.

a tiny house in the woods
Fairy houses line a trail at Russian Jack Park. (Ammon Swenson/Alaska Public Media)

Her daughter loved fairies as a child, but Brown didn’t feel the same way as a kid.

“I was into witches. So this is all very new to me. But fairies overtook our house,” she said.

Brown teamed up with the Anchorage Museum’s Seed Lab to host a fairy house building workshop where people could assemble their own structures. Some of those houses can be seen on the trail. An architectural firm contributed a detailed house straight out of the Swiss Family Robinson, complete with a spiraling staircase.

The fairy house built by RIM Architects. (Ammon Swenson/Alaska Public Media)

Sherri Douglas is friends with Brown and has been involved with the project since the beginning. As a retired youth services librarian, she has lots of favorite fairy stories. Her fairy house was more of a fairy spa complete with a scallop shell bathtub.

“To me, the point of the fairy trail is to really stop and look around and just look and be in nature. And let your mind be blank and see what pops up into your imagination and what you’re actually seeing in the woods there,” Douglas said.

The fairy houses will remain up indefinitely. (Ammon Swenson/Alaska Public Media)

Brown said the trail will stay up indefinitely with Parks and Rec’s approval, but she will be regularly monitoring the area keeping things tidy. To find it, walk left past the Russian Jack chalet, cross the bridge at the bottom of the hill and look for the sign.

Photos by Ammon Swenson:

Ammon Swenson is Alaska Public Media’s Audio Media Content Producer. He was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. He graduated from UAA in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and integrated media. He’s previously worked for KRUA radio, the Anchorage Press, and The Northern Light.

Previous articleAlaska News Nightly: Thursday, June 29, 2023
Next articleSupreme Court kills Biden’s student debt plan in a setback for millions of borrowers