Körner’s Folly Foundation

The mission of the Körner’s Folly Foundation is to restore and preserve Körner’s Folly for the education and enjoyment of the public.

Jule Körner died in 1924 and his wife, Polly Alice, followed 10 years later. The house was never again lived in as a full-time family home, but has seen many uses through the years: from the family summer home, to being open prior to World War II for tours, to a funeral home, an antique shop, and even an architect’s office and residence.  Despite the multiple re-purposes  eventually, in the late 1960s, Körner’s Folly sat unused, vulnerable to vandalism.

Fortunately, in 1970, a group of 26 Körner/Kerner descendants, and community supporters came together and purchased the home.  Together they formed Körner’s Folly, Inc. and became the caretakers of Körner’s Folly for the next 25 years.  One of their major accomplishments was getting the house listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  In 1995, with assistance from Preservation North Carolina, the Körner’s Folly Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, was formed.  Establishing the non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation and working with Preservation North Carolina enabled the new Körner’s Folly Foundation to protect Körner’s Folly with restrictive covenants and accept tax-deductible gifts from individuals and businesses, as well as pursue grants from private and government organizations to help save the National landmark home.

In 2000, the Foundation was able to hire their first full-time executive director to manage the daily operations of the site.  Today, the Körner’s Folly Foundation is made of up of 16 volunteer board of directors and two full-time staff members.  The Foundation maintains four committees to help carry out its mission to restore and preserve Körner’s Folly for the education and enjoyment of the public.

Today, Körner’s Folly is open year-round to the public for tours, educational programming, and special events. Körner’s Folly welcomes over 10,000 visitors annually. The population we serve includes residents of Forsyth County and the entire Piedmont Triad, visitors from almost every state, and a significant number of international visitors. Educational programs highlight history, architecture, performing arts, and art history through curriculum-based tours and activities. Special events include monthly puppet shows, the annual Kernersville Oktoberfest, and a variety of performing arts events.

Körner’s Folly Foundation Board Members

Joey Herman, President

Kevin Bugg, 1st Vice President

Mark Peck, 2nd Vice President

Norma Pearman, Secretary

Tom McDaniel, Treasurer

Reneė Rogers, Immediate Past President

DJ Britt

LuAnn Davis

Susan Fradenburg

Suzanne Hill

Rochelle Joseph

Larry Redfearn

Mike Shaw

Renee Shipko

Andy Strand

Jim Waddell

Sue Williams


Körner’s Folly Foundation Staff

Dale Pennington, Executive Director, dale@kornersfolly.org 

Suzanna Ritz, Operations & Programs Manager, suzanna@kornersfolly.org


Operation Restoration

Although the building is threatened by age and environment, the Foundation is dedicated to preserving the house and restoring its original Victorian magnificence. Studies of the building’s needs, from underlying water problems to external and internal repair and renovation, have been conducted and actions have already been taken to comprehensively stop these environmental threats. Our program, Operation Restoration outlines three-phase master plan to firstly restore the exterior and then the interior of the house.

 Phase I: Porch restoration (July – October 2012)

Phase II: Foundation stabilization (January – March 2013)

Phase III: Roof and Chimney restoration (June 2014 – January 2015)

Phase IV: INTERIOR RESTORATION – In Progress, 2015 – Present 

Since the kickoff of our Operation Restoration challenge campaign in 2012, the Körner’s Folly Foundation has made huge strides towards preserving the beloved historic landmark for future generations.  In January 2015, the final phase of exterior restoration, the roof restoration, was completed. Now that the building is structurally stable, and water-tight, the restoration will turn inside to Körner’s Folly’s 22 rooms.

Two questions we are most frequently asked about restoration are:

1. How long will it take to restore the interior?

2. How much will it cost?

Honestly, we do not really know the answer to either of these questions.  With donations received for the Rose Room, Blue Room, and Kitchen, we will restore three rooms in 2015, which is a huge start!  Realistically, we know it could take up to a decade to raise enough funds for all the rooms, which is why we will start on a room as soon as funding is received.  Most of the rooms can be restored in 3-6 months.  Rooms are prioritized based on safety concerns, immediate threats, and historical significance. The rooms vary in cost depending on the type of damage, ranging anywhere from $5,000 per room to $250,000 or more, for the largest rooms (like the Reception Room and Theater).  Event and tour admission, along with memberships and donations all contribute to much-needed restoration funding.

Restoration, as defined by the National Park Service, is the process of “depicting the form, features, and character of a property at a particular period of time.”  In restoring Körner’s Folly, we will focus on the house’s 1897-1905 appearance, when the house was at the height of family activity. Körner’s Folly is unique in that all 22 rooms are open to visitors; our goal is to move one room at a time to professionally restore each room. As we start to peel back the layers of paint, read through family letters, and look back at old photographs, we begin to gain a better understanding of not only the room itself, but also the people who lived, breathed, and slept there.  We learn about their likes, their interests, their joys, and their fears. Eventually, as all the pieces begin to come together, we gain a glimmer of what it might have been like to live in Körner’s Folly.

The Restoration Process:

ö        Restoration experts conduct color analyses to determine historically appropriate color schemes

ö        Repair unstable infrastructure

ö        Remove modern elements added to the house over time

ö        Replicate and repair missing or damaged plaster details, tiles, and woodwork

ö        Refinish, clean, and paint architectural surfaces

ö        Reproduce historic textiles such as drapes and fabric wall panels

The Rose Room, the Körner’s daughter Doré’s bedroom, is the first to undergo serious restorative work.  Funding for the Rose Room was donated by Wolfe & Associates, in honor of Polly Doré Körner Donnell Wolfe (1923-2014), the late daughter of Doré.  The room was renovated for Doré around 1905, when she was 16 years old.  It’s easy to imagine the excitement, living in a catalogue house like Körner’s Folly, and converting an old guest room into your bedroom.  Doré’s father customized the room especially for her: he added floral trim to the existing silk wall panels; the room was changed from mint green to a light rose color; matching rose fireplace tiles were laid, and custom build in cabinets and a dresser were added, including a special cubby for Doré to display her dolls.  You can read more about the Rose Room Restoration here.

As the Rose Room was completed, restoration moved to the Blue Room, the bedroom of the Körner’s son, Jule Gilmer Körner, Jr.  A donation to restore the Blue Room was made by Jule Gilmer Körner, IV and his wife Connie Körner.  This bedroom is located just across the hall from the Rose Room and is very similar in size and shape.  It was also customized by Jule Körner for his only son and namesake, Jule Gilmer Körner, Jr., who went by “Gilmer.”  In this room, you’ll notice the preserved ceiling mural of a violin, specifically designed for Gilmer who played this instrument.

In 2015 – 2016, restoration work continued to the Main Kitchen, restored in honor of Mary P. Cook by Wolfe & Associates, and then continued into the Sitting Room, just off of the Master Bedroom, in 2017.  The Sitting Room, later renamed the Private Dressing Room, was restored in honor of John & Bobbie Wolfe by David & Patty Peeler.  2017 also brought about the largest restoration to date, with the restoration of Cupid’s Park Theatre located on the very top floor of Körner’s Folly.  The theatre restoration was done in honor of it’s 120 anniversary, believed to be the first private little theatre, added to the house in 1897.

From there, the momentum has continued and in 2018, the Cellar was restored by John Wolfe, Pamela Brown, and Patty Peeler; the Smoking Room was restored in memory of Dr. WT and Clem Walker by Bill & Jolene Walker, Edwin & Nelie Walker, and John & Marty Walker; and the Den was restored by David and Pam Dillon.  Work is slated for the North Entrance & Stairway and Master Bedroom in 2019-2020.

It is not everyday that a historic house museum is able to undergo such a significant, long overdue restoration. If you would like to help us restore the house attend an event, take a tour, consider becoming a member of the Körner’s Folly Foundation, or make a tax-deductible donation.  Contributions to interior restoration can be made online through our donation page.

Körner’s Folly will remain open for tours during all restoration projects.  Körner’s Folly is a nonprofit house museum and open for self-guided tours Wednesdays-Saturdays 10am – 4pm and Sundays 1 – 4pm.  For more information, please give us a call at (336) 996-7922.


Photography Courtesy of Michael Blevins