KERNERSVILLE’S HOME FOR ART LOVERS, PLANT PEOPLE, & FAMILY FUN
BY SUZANNA RITZ
Körner’s Folly is the architectural wonder and home of artist and designer Jule Gilmer Körner. In 1878, Körner began construction on what would become Körner’s Folly. As an interior and furniture designer, decorator, and painter, Jule planned to use this building to showcase his design work to his clients. He filled Körner’s Folly with his interior and furniture designs, as a “catalogue” for his clients to view his work.
As Körner’s Folly began to take shape, its unique design defied simple description and the house was constantly under renovation to make way for new designs. No two doorways or windows are exactly alike; there are 15 different fireplaces, and ceiling heights range from 5 ½ feet to 25 feet. The pivoting “windows” and other openings anchor a unique air distribution system, while cubbyholes and trap doors exemplify Victorian ingenuity.
The resulting construction reportedly caused a passerby to comment about the house, “…that will surely be Jule Körner’s folly.” Jule caught wind of the remark and so enjoyed it that he quickly dubbed the building “Körner’s Folly,” and even had the name laid in tile on the front porch. On Easter Day in 1880, Jule held an opening reception and invited his family and neighbors to tour “the Folly.”
Superlatives fail to describe this home of contrasts and comparisons; it has both welcoming spaces and hidden nooks and crannies. Decorative murals and artwork add a sense of opulence, while child-size rooms give way to an airy and elegant Reception room. A former stable was renovated into a library and sewing room, and the top level houses a private theater, Cupid’s Park Theater, believed to be the first private little theater in America.
This summer is a great time to discover all that Körner’s Folly has to offer! In addition to self-guided tours, offered
Wednesday – Saturday from 10am – 4pm, and Sunday 1pm – 4pm, visitors to Körner’s Folly can explore the eccentric construction with the aid of a Scavenger Hunt, Photo Adventure, Please Touch Baskets, and Get to Know the Victorians card decks. Tag photos @kornersfolly on social media to have your shots featured.
A fun way for families and children to engage with the historic house museum is to attend a showing of The Körner Family Revue Puppet Show, a half-hour production that is offered on the 4th Saturday of each month at 10:30am. Shows feature a cast of characters who represent real people who once lived in the Folly, sharing the story of how it came to be in a lively and musical way, with an optional art activity available after the show. Tickets to the Puppet Show are included with regular admission price, and are sold online and available for purchase upon arrival in Aunt Dealy’s House.
For adult visitors, special events are a great opportunity to see the Folly from a different perspective– the Victorian Parlor Series, an adult education program, harkens back to the Victorian period, when guests gathered under the roof of an inspiring host to sip, snack, socialize, be amused, refine their taste, and increase their knowledge. Past events have included steampunk leather-crafting, Victorian Cocktails, wine and chocolate tastings, and murder mystery game night.
The next iteration of the Victorian Parlor Series, Historical Botany, A Collaboration with the Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden, will be Saturday, July 13 from 10am–1pm. This progressive program will begin with a lecture at the Ciener Botanical Garden, presented by Adrienne Roethling (Director of Curation) and Josh Williams (Garden Manager) focusing on their research of historical photos of Körner’s Folly interiors, which houseplants were used in Victorian home decorating and why, and some fascinating botanical trends of the era.
The presentation will be followed by a flora-focused tour of Körner’s Folly, highlighting architectural details, paintings, and objects, as well as the location and varieties of the Körner family’s favorite plants. The program will conclude with Tea & Scones from popular Kernersville lunch spot Mae’s Vintage Kitchen in the Reception Room. Tickets available online at www.KornersFolly.org.
Hosting community events has always been an important part of the Körner family life and legacy. The Körners opened the third floor of the Folly as a Little Theatre, their Library to book borrowers, and thought nothing of hiring an orchestra from Greensboro to play at parties. Visitors can carry on in the Körner tradition by meeting local artists and craftspeople in inspiring and artistic surroundings on two occasions this summer, in both July and August.
On Saturday, July 20 from 9am–2pm, Körner’s Folly will host A Kernersville Christmas In July, presented by Aixa Maria’s Gift Baskets. It will be a great opportunity to support local businesses and get a jump start on the holiday gift-giving season.
The Kernersville Arts and Crafts Guild will host their annual Home Grown Arts Festival on the Lawn at Körner’s Folly on Saturday, August 24 from 9am–2pm, featuring the best of local artisans’ work in metal, glass, wood, ceramics, fiber, and more.
A Kernersville Christmas in July and the Home Grown Arts Festival are free to attend, but regular admission applies to tours of Körner’s Folly historic house museum. Adults: $10; Children (ages 6-18) $6; Children under 6 free.