I don’t know when the fairy houses first started appearing on Monhegan Island. Monhegan is the farthest east of the islands on Muscongus Bay in midcoast Maine, ten miles offshore and only a square mile in area. It’s one of the last Maine islands still inhabited year-round. The island economy is based on lobsters and summer tourists. A one-room schoolhouse contains eight grades. Next to the lighthouse, there’s an art museum; painters such as Rockwell Kent and Edward Hopper have loved coming to Monhegan for over a century.
One of the many Monhegan hiking trails passes through Cathedral Woods, where towering conifers filter the sunlight, and it’s there that the fairy houses began to appear: little houses built of sticks or bark, decorated with fragments of shell, bits of string, or patches of moss, surrounded by pebbled walkways and tiny walls. The fairy village grew each summer, sprouting new houses overnight. Passersby were inspired to innovate, with houses built in the hollows of trees, decorated with berries and flower petals, furnished with acorns.
But the surrounding ground was being denuded of moss. Bar peeled off trees. The village was unsustainable. Eventually, the residents posted signs prohibiting the construction of any more fairy houses, and for the most part, the fairies complied. I didn't get out to Monhegan this summer, so I don’t know what’s left.
Still, in a limited place like your own backyard, there’s nothing wrong with starting to construct a fairy village. Just a house or two here and there. After all, people plant butterfly gardens to attract butterflies, and fairies are much more rare.