Preserving Our History

By Brittany Ashby

The Körner’s Folly Foundation is the nonprofit organization that has owned and operated the fascinating home of Kernersville native and artist, Jule Körner and his wife, Polly Alice Masten Körner, with their children, Gilmer and Doré. As well as Clara Körner (also known as Aunt Dealy), a host of kinfolk, educators, artists, and friends, since its formation in 1993.

Our mission is to preserve and restore this unique historic landmark for the education and enjoyment of the public. We advance this mission by providing both self-guided and guided tours of all 22 rooms of the home year-round, in addition to hosting innovative and exciting programs for all ages. We also collect, care for, and share the thousands of Victorian-era and Gilded Age artifacts that were owned and used by the family members dating from 1880, when Körner’s Folly was built, until the late 1930s, when the home was no longer regularly used by family members.

Our nation’s history has many facets, and conserving historic artifacts for future generations helps us to examine this complex history as we seek answers about the origin of these artifacts, their ownership, and the nature of their use. The resulting information helps us reach a clearer, more detailed understanding about the lives of the Körner’s Folly residents that we can provide to the public. Conservation efforts help us transmit our understanding of the past, which often allows us the opportunity to uncover new connections to history, and to take a role in shaping our future.
Thanks to the generosity and vision of the descendants of the family members who have saved, preserved, and donated artifacts over many years, the Körner’s Folly Foundation holds a variety of objects in our collection, from the furnishings of the home that were designed by Jule himself, to everyday items including: kitchen utensils, needlework supplies, clothing, travel memorabilia, diary entries, family letters, and much more. Recent acquisitions from Körner descendants, Pamela Wolfe Browne, Jules G. Körner IV, and Patricia Wolfe Peeler, have greatly increased both the number and type of artifacts in our care, including an exquisite Parisian opera coat purchased by Doré Körner during her Grand Tour of Europe
and the Middle East from 1911-1913.

Thousands of the Foundation’s artifacts are currently on view inside Körner’s Folly for visitors to discover, such as the whimsical conversation chairs in the Reception Room, the incredibly detailed three-story buffet in the Dining Room, and the tools that Clara used to make her legendary corn cakes, pies, and meals for the family. However, some artifacts are simply too delicate, fragile, or valuable to leave unattended in the home over long periods of time which limits accessibility to these important and interesting pieces.

Artifacts such as Jule’s sketchbooks, which contain interior design plans for his wealthy clients, Doré’s travel memorabilia and souvenirs, letters written by Polly Alice about her life at Körner’s Folly, Gilmer’s uniform from his service in the Naval Reserves during World War I, and Clara’s handwoven clothing, need specialized storage as well as secure display cases in order to be shared with the public while maintaining vital conservation standards.

With the Körner’s Folly Foundation’s expansion to the new John & Bobbie Wolfe Visitors Center, next door to the historic house, we will be able to offer profoundly increased availability of these sensitive objects to students, researchers, scholars, and visitors from Kernersville and beyond. The Visitors Center meets standards for accessible design and will also include dedicated exhibit space, providing all visitors with an opportunity for deeper engagement and understanding of the people who lived at Körner’s Folly during this pivotal and exciting time in American history.

In addition, the Visitors Center will provide the Körner’s Folly Foundation with an improved artifact storage area. Greater control over UV levels, humidity, and temperature, as well as more space, will allow the organization to meet industry standard conservation practices while providing room for future growth of this historically significant collection.

The John & Bobbie Wolfe Visitors Center at Körner’s Folly is expected to be fully open to the public this spring. In addition to improved collections storage and exhibit areas, the center will also include a community gathering place and event space while serving as a gateway to the historic downtown district and a tourism resource. Offering increased accessibility, improved amenities for all visitors, and greater functionality for the organization, the Visitors Center will help the Körner’s Folly Foundation and the Town of Kernersville preserve our past while serving the needs and interests of current and future generations.

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