2017 is bringing an exciting new restoration project to Historic Körner’s Folly located at 413 South Main Street. In honor of the 120th anniversary of Cupid’s Park Theatre, a local donor has generously given funds to have the theater restored. Work began in early January and was completed February 17, 2017.
This restoration project is particularly significant because Cupid’s Park Theatre has been written about, and known as “America’s First Private Little Theatre” since the early 1900s. In 1897, Jule Körner renovated his home, Körner’s Folly, to transform his third floor billiard’s room into a theater space. One year earlier, his wife, Polly Alice Masten Körner established the Juvenile Lyceum or Children’s Little Theater, a drama society where children in Kernersville, ages seven to thirteen, were invited to create, rehearse, and perform productions at Körner’s Folly. Forty-two children attended the first meeting on April 3, 1896. Polly Alice also hired Professor Charles Brockman of Greensboro as a music teacher. Together, Brockman and Polly Alice taught piano, violin, and cello to the Körner children and the children’s playmates, to have a small orchestra ensemble to accompany the Juvenile Lyceum’s performances. With Jule in charge of the sets and Polly Alice in charge of costumes, local youth continued to perform here over the next several decades. The entire community was invited to attend these performances. To make the theater a true crowning jewel to top Körner’s Folly, Jule had the theater adorned with cupid-themed murals painted by German artist Caesar Milch. Today, Cupid’s Park Theatre continues to host annual performances by local performing arts groups.
Restoration is the process of depicting the form, features, and character of a property at a particular period of time. Throughout the restoration process at Körner’s Folly, the Foundation focuses on the house’s 1897-1905 appearance, when the home was at the height of family activity. The theater’s restoration has included removing modern elements added over time, replicating and repairing missing or damaged woodwork, and refinishing and cleaning the architectural surfaces. The original gas light fixtures have been up-fitted for modern electric light bulbs, so they can again be used to light the room. All of the original stage carpentry, including the unique semi-circular curved curtain rod has been repaired and re-hung. The original curtains were replicated for display. The murals are preserved as they exist today.
The restoration of Cupid’s Park Theatre has been made in memory of Polly Alice Masten Körner, Allie Doré Körner Donnell, and Polly Doré Körner Donnell Wolfe, and in honor of Sally Ruddy, creator of the Körner’s Folly Family Revue Puppet Show, and Bobbie Wolfe, Education Coordinator.
Körner’s Folly is open for self-guided tours Wednesdays-Saturdays 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and on Sundays 1 – 4 p.m. The last tickets are sold at 3 p.m. to allow visitors adequate time to explore and enjoy the museum. Private guided group tours are available by appointment. Call (336) 996-7922 or visit www.kornersfolly.org for more information.