Körner’s Folly, Architectural Wonder in Kernersville

On March 28, 1880, Körner’s Folly opened to the public.

Furniture designer, decorator and painter Jule Gilmer Körner began construction on the building in 1878 as a showcase for his work. He continually added new designs to the house, and when he died in 1924 renovation plans were found on his drawing table.

The elegant structure on Main Street in Kernersville has 22 rooms spread over three floors and seven levels. No two parts of the house are exactly alike. Ceiling heights range from 5 ½ to 25 feet; there are 15 fireplaces, numerous cubbyholes and trap doors, and a unique air distribution system with pivoting windows.  Körner also built a house on the property for Clara, the servant who raised him. Born a slave, she was purchased by his Quaker father to give her freedom.

In addition to being used a residence and being open for tours, the building has long legacy as a performing arts venue for the Triad community. Körner’s wife Polly Alice established the Juvenile Lyceum in the building in 1896 so that children in the community had a space to stage performances. In 1897, Jule renovated the third floor billiard room into a theater space adorned with cupid-themed murals painted by Caesar Milch. Called Cupid’s Park Theater is said to be the first private little theater in America, and is still used for community productions.

Körner’s Folly continues to be open to the public to this day.

Visit: Körner’s Folly is open four days of the week in Kernersville.