Preserving History for Future Generations

By Suzanna Malliett

Passersby on Main Street may have noticed a large pile of red Carolina clay recently added to the lot next door to historic Körner’s Folly. Though it may not seem like much has happened so far, great progress is being made on the construction of a new Visitors Center at Körner’s Folly. 

Designed and built by Kernersville native Jule Körner in 1880 as a living catalog for his interior design company, “Körner’s Folly” evolved over time into an unforgettable example of eclectic Victorian-era architecture and American ingenuity. The house museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Körner’s Folly Foundation was formed in 1993 as a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the house for the education and enjoyment of the public. Today, the entire home is open to the public year-round for self-guided tours and for exploring local history, art, architecture, theater, interior design, and historic preservation through programs and events.

Körner’s Folly has experienced incredible growth over the past decade, expanding from 8,000 visitors in 2013 to a projected 14,000 visitors in 2023. In 2017 the Körner’s Folly Foundation sought data to inform planning, collected by stakeholder surveys from a diverse cross-section of citizens. Responses indicated that the community values Körner’s Folly as a venue through which to learn about the time period and the history of Kernersville itself. It also showed that residents see “the Folly” as an attraction that contributes meaningfully to the town’s economic development.

Surveys identified areas of improvement for Körner’s Folly. Primarily, the physical constraints of the house result in a lack of accessibility for persons with disabilities. Responses also indicated that there was a demand for more information about the family, the history, and the time period. Other areas of improvement included visitor amenities, with suggestions for paved parking, a greater number of restrooms, rotating exhibitions, and meeting or program space.

In response, the Körner’s Folly Foundation developed a strategic plan in 2018, which resulted in the goals of widening access, deepening connection, and growing sustainable infrastructure. The plan visualized a Visitors Center that would help the organization expand and meet visitor need. Based on these strategic goals, the Foundation launched a capital campaign in 2019 to raise funds for a new facility that would address areas of improvement and continue successes of the past. 

A public-private partnership between the Town of Kernersville and the Körner’s Folly Foundation was drawn up to help make this vision a reality. The agreement included the Town’s ownership of the building as a result of an investment of $750,000, providing that the Foundation could raise matching funds and be responsible for the building’s operation.

Despite the turbulence of the years since the campaign was launched, the Körner’s Folly Foundation is thrilled to report that, thanks to the generosity and vision of individual donors, local, county and state officials, and grant opportunities, funds have been raised to complete construction.

The building was designed by West & Stem and is being built by Wilson Covington. Construction of the building is scheduled to be complete in October 2023, and the Körner’s Folly Foundation hopes to be operational in the space by March 2024.

The Visitors Center at Körner’s Folly is named in honor of John and Bobbie Wolfe, in recognition of the notable impact that the couple has had on the organization through many decades. The Wolfes have both served in many volunteer capacities to ensure the preservation of the house for the education and enjoyment of the public.

The John and Bobbie Wolfe Visitors Center at Körner’s Folly will add over 6,000 square feet of operating space for the organization, providing a central point for delivery of tourism information, exhibition space, flexible meeting and program space, artifact storage, a gift shop, and paved parking for tour buses and cars. The center will allow for greater programming capacity and will improve access for persons with disabilities, positioning the Körner’s Folly Foundation to meet the future needs of the museum-going public.

Kernersville has a history of civic pride paired with visionary thinking. In 1871, residents raised over $10,000 (almost $250,000 today) to bring the railroad to town, and continued this history in 1970, when twenty-six families, including Kerner/Körner descendants, pooled their resources to save Körner’s Folly from demolition. By rescuing this building, the community underscored their commitment to the historical value of Körner’s Folly and has supported the restoration and preservation of this incredible home ever since.

The fundraising campaign for the John and Bobbie Wolfe Visitors Center at Körner’s Folly continues, with donations supporting education, programming, and exhibits. All are welcome to take part in this historic effort by making a gift that will be used to expand accessibility to Kernersville’s landmark home for all.

To inquire about opportunities for involvement with this historic campaign, including naming opportunities, contact Suzanna Malliett, Executive Director of the Körner’s Folly Foundation, at 336-996-7922 or More information about the John and Bobbie Wolfe Visitors Center at Körner’s Folly is available at

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