By Kristin Miller Hennig
Operation Restoration is Körner’s Folly’s long-term project to restore and preserve the Victorian house museum. Since the kickoff of our Operation Restoration challenge campaign in 2012, the Körner’s Folly Foundation has made huge strides towards preserving the beloved historic landmark for future generations. From 2012-2015, the first major restorative work took place at Historic Körner’s Folly, completely stabilizing the exterior structure of the 1880s Victorian house. The foundation was repaired, the porches were restored, and the entire roof was replaced. Now that the home is water-tight and structurally stable, interior restoration work is underway.
We began 2018 continuing this project with the restoration of three rooms – the Cellar, Smoking Lounge, and Den. Work is ongoing and is expected to be completed by May. Once complete, these rooms will make 8 fully restored rooms of Körner’s Folly’s 22 total rooms, leaving 14 remaining rooms in need of donations for restoration.
This chapter of interior restoration focuses on restoring and preserving Jule Körner’s original interior décor for the education and enjoyment of the public. The Cellar, Smoking Lounge, and Den face the greatest deterioration from decades of water damage and pose real concerns. All of the rooms in the house have been given a ranking based on deterioration, safety concerns, and historical significance. These three rooms hit all three of those markers and are our highest priority for restoration. Of the project, Dale Pennington, Körner’s Folly Executive Director says “These rooms are three of the most badly deteriorated rooms inside of Körner’s Folly. It takes great forethought by donors to support the rooms in most need of restoration.”
Restoration is the process of depicting the form, features, and character of a property at a particular period of time. All three rooms sit on the original concrete slab foundation, which caused significant water and moisture issues over the years. The water issues have been remediated, and now the interior plaster and carpentry can be repaired and replicated without further threat of damage. The restoration in these rooms will include removing modern elements added over time, replicating and repairing missing or damaged woodwork and tile, refinishing and cleaning the architectural surfaces, and returning the rooms to their original color schemes. The Smoker, also called the Men’s Smoking Lounge, and the adjacent Cellar will be returned to their 1890s appearance and color scheme. The Sewing Room, which is being renamed “The Den” based on new documentary evidence, will be returned to its 1906 appearance.
As an interior designer, Jule was always experimenting with new colors, wall papers, tiles, and finishes. We want Körner’s Folly to be reflective of that, so visitors can better understand how the house changed over time. There were two major periods of renovations for Körner’s Folly that are well documented. The first major renovation took place in the early 1890s after Jule married his wife and they started having children, they renovated the home to accommodate their growing family. The second major renovation took place from 1903-1908, when Jule reportedly spent $17,000 to renovate the house (over $400,000 in today’s dollar) after his children left home for school. Since Jule Körner was constantly changing and renovating Körner’s Folly, it is important to us to represent a variety of time periods throughout the house through the restoration process.
Don’t miss this opportunity to see Historic Preservation in action. If you have never toured Körner’s Folly or if it has been awhile since your last visit, now is a wonderful time to come take a tour. Körner’s Folly will remain open for tours throughout the restoration project and it is one of the few times when you are able to see restored rooms, unrestored rooms, and rooms undergoing restoration, before work is completed in May.
The month of May is also Historic Preservation Month. To celebrate Historic Preservation Month and the completion of the current restoration project, Körner’s Folly will be hosting an event the evening of May 22 as part of our Victorian Parlor Series. The Victorian Parlor Series is an adult education program where we explore a topic related to Körner’s Folly or pop culture of the Victorian period, all while sipping, snacking, and socializing. Attendees will be able to see the completed restoration projects, meet contractors who did restoration work, and learn about future restoration efforts. For additional information and to purchase tickets, visit www.kornersfolly.org.
Körner’s Folly is open for self-guided tours Wednesdays-Saturdays 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and on Sundays 1 – 4 p.m. The last tickets are sold at 3 p.m. to allow visitors adequate time to explore and enjoy the museum. Private guided group tours are available by appointment. Call 336.996.7922 or visit www.kornersfolly.org for more information.