By Suzanna Ritz, Operations & Programs Manager, Körner’s Folly Foundation
Körner’s Folly Historic House Museum, one of Kernersville’s most recognizable landmarks, is a rich source of local history and community pride. Constructed in 1880 by Jule Körner, grandson of town founder Joseph Kerner, Körner’s Folly offers both locals and tourists an experience like no other.
Jule constructed Körner’s Folly with the intention of creating a place that would serve the office and studio of his interior design business, the Reuben Rink Decorating and House Furnishing Company. The Folly’s original twelve rooms included a Billiards Room, a stable, an open carriageway and plenty of space for customers to view and select their own furnishings, kind of like a Victorian-era IKEA. When Jule got married, his wife Polly Alice helped transform the building into a family home, adding kitchens, closing the carriageway, and relocating the horses, which resulted in a delightfully eccentric floor plan.
Today, Körner’s Folly offers a variety of opportunities to discover more about the Körner family, the Victorian era, and the history of Kernersville. As a non-profit organization, the Körner’s Folly Foundation is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the house for the education and enjoyment of the public. A small staff including an Executive Director, Operations and Programs Manager, and Data & Development Administrator are joined by three part-time Visitor Services Associates and a host of dedicated and skilled volunteers to meet the needs of over 14,000 visitors a year in addition to implementing a multitude of community events and programs.
“Hospitality is what sets Körner’s Folly apart from other museums,” according to Dale Pennington, Executive Director. “We want visitors to feel comfortable and enjoy their experience. In a way, we want them to feel like Jule’s guests. There are very few ropes restricting access. Instead, visitors can explore all 22 rooms at their own pace, every one containing original period furnishings. The Körner family loved welcoming people from the community into their home, and this legacy of hospitality continues today.”
This April, we would like to celebrate Volunteer Appreciation Month by spotlighting the people who help share the story of Körner’s Folly every day and make our programs personable and guided tours memorable.
Edwin Walker, serving as a tour guide since 2015, has a long and unique history of involvement with Körner’s Folly. His parents were among the 26 families that saved the house from demolition in the early 1970s, and since then, he has accumulated an encyclopedic knowledge of its architecture, design elements, and history of the town. Edwin is an engaging, well-informed, and passionate tour guide for adult groups and school field trips alike. He also enjoys greeting visitors in the Foyer during the Folly’s community events.
Russ Gray has been an integral part of the Körner’s Folly family since 2016. At a meeting of the Kernersville Historic Preservation Society, he heard about the opportunity to interact with people from different walks of life as a tour guide at the Folly. He enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for the unusual design of the house with people of all ages, and considers himself a life-long learner, never hesitating to track down an answer to a visitor’s question. Russ has also been known to pitch in as needed for a role in the Körner Family Revue Puppet Show for young visitors and is a steadfast interpreter of the house’s history who connects with visitors in a down-to-earth, personal way.
Lindsey Hart has been a Körner’s Folly puppeteer for the past seven years! She became involved with the puppeteer program thanks to her mom. As a homeschool family, they were looking for fun volunteer opportunities that fit with their schedule. Lindsey enjoys exercising her creativity, the thrill of performance, and learning about how things come together behind the scenes. Putting on a puppet show requires many people working together, and Lindsey has enjoyed making new friends. Witnessing how young visitors react to different parts of the puppet show is her favorite part of volunteering, and she excels at helping attendees craft their own puppets after the show.
Volunteers are essential to the work of the Körner’s Folly Foundation, and with their help, we are able to provide personal visitor experiences that connect people to history and to each other. Consider joining our volunteer family at Körner’s Folly – we are seeking new tour guides for 2020 and would love your help. No experience is needed, and we provide training and advance notice of the tour schedule. Become a volunteer and join us in welcoming visitors from all over the world to experience the magic that is Jule Körner’s Folly. To find out more, just call the office at 336.996.7922. We will be happy to take the time to get to know you.