A Bright Future for Körner’s Folly and the Town of Kernersville

A Bright Future for Körner’s Folly and the Town of Kernersville

Körner’s Folly is abuzz with excitement after this month’s Board of Aldermen Meeting.  On Tuesday, August 7, the Town of Kernersville agreed to enter into a partnership with the Körner’s Folly Foundation to build a Visitor’s Center for Körner’s Folly and the Town of Kernersville on 1.25 acres of land jointly purchased by the Town and the Körner’s Folly Foundation in 2017.  The Town committed $750,000 toward the project, contingent upon Körner’s Folly raising the remaining $750,000 to match the Town’s investment.  Körner’s Folly will be pursuing a Capital Campaign in 2019-2020 to match the Town’s investment as well as to continue raising funds for the much needed restoration of the historic house.

Over the last five years, restoration successes, increased programming, visitation, and community events, and statewide recognition, have spurred widespread community interest in the well-being of Körner’s Folly. Visitation has grown dramatically, with Körner’s Folly now welcoming over 10,000 visitors annually. However, increased visitation has exacerbated the limitations of the physical spaces in Körner’s Folly and Aunt Dealy’s Cottage and there is a strong need for better ADA accessibility. The Körner’s Folly Foundation Board of Directors has been working diligently over the last several years to strategically plan ways of addressing our growing capacities, while at the same time, envisioning ways Körner’s Folly can enhance and attract increased tourism to the Town of Kernersville.

In 2017, the Körner’s Folly Foundation engaged consultant Katheryn Northington to conduct a strategic review of its mission and purpose.  The Board of Directors also began touring historic sites in North Carolina and Virginia, holding strategic retreats, and engaged Northington to conduct stakeholder interviews.

During her interviews, Northington found that, “Citizens view Körner’s Folly as much, much more than an iconic landmark.  The Folly provides Kernersville with a sense of identity; stakeholders see the Folly as “Kernersville’s home” and value the contribution of the Folly in making Kernersville a community rather than a stop on the highway.”  Participants also expressed to Northington that, “Körner’s Folly contributes meaningfully to the town’s economic development by attracting tourism revenue and by its cultural contribution to the quality of life in Kernersville.”

Armed with this support from the community, the Körner’s Folly Board of Directors began planning a Capital Campaign, agreeing that expansion would allow Körner’s Folly to better serve a wider audience in more meaningful ways.  The Körner’s Folly Board envisions a Visitor Center, built on the lot next door, that would meet the demands of the growing organizational capacity and serve as a gateway for visitors to Kernersville. The Visitor Center would include exhibition, meeting, and programming space, increased public restrooms, a gift shop, offices, storage, and parking facilities. The center’s facilities could benefit many nonprofits in Kernersville by disseminating information and offering meeting, conference, and community space.

In 2018, the Körner’s Folly Foundation Board of Directors engaged Capital Development Services as campaign counsel.  They are actively engaged in planning and preparation for the launch of the capital campaign. The Körner’s Folly Foundation has received approval from the Winston Salem Foundation Campaign Coordinating Committee to launch this Capital Campaign in the fall of 2019, which dictates corporate and foundation gifts.

While in this planning phase, the Board of Directors recognized that support from the Town of Kernersville was an important first step in the process.  “We sought support from the Town up front as part of our plans to bring this project to fruition, understanding the importance of this project for both Körner’s Folly and the Town of Kernersville. Our Board unanimously agreed that a public-private partnership is critical to bringing this project to life. So it was important to secure support from the Town now – as a first step in the process – before launching our pending capital campaign” says Dale Pennington, Körner’s Folly Executive Director.

A commitment of $750,000 from the Town will function as a “challenge” for the remainder of the funds needed to build the Visitor Center.  The commitment from the Town of Kernersville is contingent upon the Körner’s Folly Board raising $750,000 from private sources, thereby leveraging the Town of Kernersville’s support to “match dollar for dollar” every private dollar contributed to the project.  To date, the Körner’s Folly Foundation has already raised $280,000 toward the Capital Campaign from private individuals.

This public-private partnership between the Town of Kernersville and the Körner’s Folly Foundation could be modeled after the Town’s public-private partnership with the Kernersville YMCA to build the pool in 1997-1998.  At that time, the Town also invested $750,000 to build a community pool that was managed by the YMCA.

The vision of the Körner’s Folly Foundation is to be a place of connection between the past and the future, between the arts and industry, and among people who share a common appreciation for new ways of thinking.  Of the project, Mike Shaw, Körner’s Folly Foundation president says, “This potential project is very exciting, both for Körner’s Folly and the Town of Kernersville. A new Körner’s Folly Visitor Center provides all of us the opportunity to form a true partnership with the Town of Kernersville, but also with the citizens of Kernersville as well.  Körner’s Folly is the namesake of our town and we are very proud of the fact that many of our citizens automatically link the two as one. We now have the opportunity to complement our wonderful historic house with a Visitor Center that will tie into Main Street and provide a beautiful “Gateway” to the Town of Kernersville. This is the most positive news that we have announced since Jule Körner stood out in a vacant piece of property and said “I’m going to build a house….and it’s going to be special.”

Questions? Want to be involved in this effort? Call the office today (336) 996-7922.