Recognizing the Strength of the Past

Recognizing the Strength of the PastBy Chris Comer

Our town has a memorable historic background.  Not only did Kernersville begin with a passionate townspeople, but it was also recognized as a place to stop during travels.  Take a moment to drift back in time and “Discover YourVille in Kernersville” with me!

In the 1770’s, what is now known as Kernersville became a recognized point of commerce and interest in North Carolina.  William Dobson opened an inn and store at the corner of two frontier roads, which is now the intersection of Main and Mountain Streets.  Meeting the needs of travelers, including George Washington, the village grew around the inn and became known as Dobson’s Crossroads.  About 60 years later, the Dobson property was sold to German businessman Joseph Kerner.  Two of Joseph’s sons, John Frederick and Philip, started the town’s first tannery.  It operated during the Civil War providing leather goods including harnesses, saddles, and shoes for the Confederacy.  An historic marker near Tanyard Lane identifies the site.  With a population of only 147, townspeople incorporated under the name Kernersville in March 31, 1871.  Two years later the railroad arrived and the town quickly grew to 1,000.

Among the highlights of the town’s growth was the construction of Körner’s Folly, a residential creation on Main Street built for the wealthy interior designer, Jules Gilmer Körner, the grandson of Joseph Kerner.  The fabulous residence was built on several levels and includes 22 rooms with varying ceiling heights, silk damask-covered walls, hand-carved woodwork, hand-laid tiles, hand-painted murals, and “Cupids Park” on the top floor, which was the first private theatre in America.  It is still used today.

As times changed, so did the industry in Kernersville.  Many of the local millwrights, farmers, tanners, and coachmakers turned to the tobacco business that dominated the 1880’s.

Over the years, Kernersville has evolved into a focal point for community life, business, and industry.  It provides a progressive environment that is open to new ideas, and at the same time harvests the strengths of the past.

Kernersville has many historic sites.  You just have to know where to look.  For example, there is a brass marker located in the center of town just north of S & R Motors on South Main.  Located at the corner of Main and Mountain is the marker that commemorates George Washington’s breakfast stopover at Dobson’s Tavern.  The Old Piney Grove School is located at Fourth of July Park and is regularly visited during the year by our local school children.

There is so much history in our beautiful town of Kernersville.  We are lucky to call this place home.  I encourage you to take a walking tour of our historic downtown, you will not be disappointed.  If you are interested in more information, please stop by the Kernersville Chamber of Commerce to pick up a brochure of the Historic Downtown Walking Tour.  We are located at 136 East Mountain Street, or feel free to call (993-4521) or visit us online at


More Historic Places in Downtown Kernersville:

  • Francis Marion Stafford House, Circa 1840 – 711 S. Main St.
  • Edward Gibson House, Circa 1837-1841 – 419 S. Main St.
  • Dr. Elias Kerner House, 1857 – 414 S. Main St.
  • Gentry-Greenfield House, Circa 1861 – 707 S. Main St.
  • Theodore E. Kerner House, 1877 – 620 S. Main St.
  • Kernersville Moravian Church, 1867 – 504 S. Main St.
  • St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 1873 – 401 Church St.
  • Cemetery located behind Cagney’s, dated 1808
  • First Kernersville Depot, Circa 1873 – 107 Bodenhamer St.
  • Körner’s Folly, 1878 – 413 S. Main St.
  • Kerner-Greenfield Tobacco Factory, Circa 1884 – 401 S. Main St.
  • Bellamy House: New Kernersville Museum, 1800 – 127 West Mountain St.




One comment on “Recognizing the Strength of the Past

  1. I am a second year graduate student for the Master’s Degree in American History at UNCG with my field of specialization being the American Civil War. Would love to talk to folks in Kernersville whose ancestors fought (on either side) of that event and publish their stories on my blog “California Boy Goes South.”

    Also interested in hearing about any historic sites in Kernersville (or nearby) pertaining to the American Civil War.

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