The Hidden Treasures of Körner’s Folly House in Kernersville, NC

The Architectural Enigma of Körner’s Folly

Imagine walking into a house where each room is a different world. That’s Körner’s Folly for you! Created in 1880 by Jule Gilmer Körner, this 6,000-square-foot mansion is a marvel of eccentric design. The house has a shingled, cross-gable roof and measures 48 feet on each side. It’s often dubbed the “strangest house in the world,” for good reason.

Initially, the house was a combo of a dwelling, stable, and carriage house. It even had an open carriageway running through its center.

Jule Körner amassed his wealth through his artwork, specifically by creating murals featuring Bull Durham Smoking tobacco bulls that adorned buildings and barns along the eastern seaboard of the United States. He used this house to showcase his interior decorating and design business.

The house has undergone several changes over the years. Once he tied the knot with Polly Alice Masten and became a father to two kids, Körner decided to seal off the carriageway and remodel the house into the layout we see today. Now, it boasts 22 rooms, each with its unique design. From Victorian furniture to intricate hand-laid tiles, each room is a testament to Körner’s artistic vision.

What makes Körner’s Folly even more fascinating is its unusual architecture. The house features 15 fireplaces, cast-plaster details, and carved woodwork. It’s like stepping into a different era, where art and architecture blend seamlessly.

So, why is Körner’s Folly considered an architectural enigma? It defies conventional design norms, offering a unique blend of styles and features, making it a must-visit landmark.

The house is open for self-guided tours from Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm. The last entry time is 3 pm, so plan your visit accordingly. If you’re looking for things to do in Kernersville, North Carolina, this should be on your list!

Körner's Folly
Körner’s Folly” by jjandames is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The Man Behind Körner’s Folly: Jule Körner

Jule Körner was no ordinary man. Born into a family with a rich history, he was destined to leave his mark. Körner was an artist, decorator, and designer with a vision for something extraordinary. And that vision came to life in the form of Körner’s Folly.

He moved back to his hometown, Kernersville, NC, in the 1870s to build this architectural wonder. He aimed to start an interior decorating and design business, and what better way to showcase his skills than to build a house that served as a living portfolio?

Jule Körner was a man of many talents. Not only did he design the house, but he also furnished it with examples of Victorian furniture and interior decoration. Each room was a canvas for his artistic endeavors, making the house a masterpiece.

But Körner wasn’t just about business. He was a philanthropist at heart. He and his wife, Polly Alice, built a theater on the house’s third floor as part of their “Juvenile Lyceum.” This was a project aimed at providing local children with access to the arts.

Today, the house is owned and operated by the Körner’s Folly Foundation, a nonprofit organization. They’ve taken on the responsibility of preserving this historic gem for future generations.

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So, who was Jule Körner? He was an artist, a businessman, and a visionary who turned his dreams into a reality we can all experience today.

Körner’s Folly Through the Years

Time has been kind to Körner’s Folly. Constructed in 1880, the house earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places on March 20, 1973. It’s also part of the South Main Street Historic District, making it a landmark in Kernersville.

The house has seen several changes over the years. Initially serving multiple purposes, including as a stable and carriage house, it was later renovated to its current 22-room layout. Each renovation added a new layer of intrigue to this already fascinating structure.

One of the most significant updates came in August 2023 with the opening of the John & Bobbie Wolfe Visitors Center. This addition aims to enhance the visitor experience, offering more insights into the history and architecture of the house.

The house is now a historic museum, showcasing original furnishings, artwork, and intricate details that transport you back in time. It’s a living testament to the vision and creativity of Jule Körner and his family.

But it’s not just about the past. The house continues evolving, with ongoing restoration projects to preserve its unique character. It blends history and modernity, offering a glimpse into the past while adapting to the present needs.

Körner's Folly
Körner’s Folly” by jjandames is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The Many Rooms of Körner’s Folly

Let’s talk about the rooms, shall we? With 22 rooms, each with its unique design, exploring Körner’s Folly is like stepping into a labyrinth of artistic expression. One of the standout features is the third-floor theater known as “Cupid’s Park.” It’s said to be the oldest private theater in America!

The theater was part of Jule and Polly Alice Körner’s “Juvenile Lyceum,” a project aimed to give local children access to the arts. Today, it’s used by local theatrical groups and for puppet shows performed several times a year for children and visiting school groups.

But the theater is just the tip of the iceberg. The house features 15 fireplaces, each with its unique design. Then, cast-plaster details, carved woodwork, and elaborate hand-laid tiles adorn various rooms. It’s like a treasure hunt, where each room offers something new to discover.

And let’s not forget the furniture. Since Jule Körner used the house to showcase his interior decorating business, many examples of Victorian furniture add to the house’s charm. From ornate chairs to intricately designed tables, each piece tells a story.

So, what can you expect when you explore the rooms of Körner’s Folly? It is a journey through time and art, where each room offers a unique experience that’s both educational and awe-inspiring.

Körner's Folly
Körner’s Folly” by jjandames is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Events and Activities at Körner’s Folly

If you think Körner’s Folly is just a museum, think again! It’s a hub of activity, hosting various events and programs throughout the year. One event worth looking forward to was the Fall Vintage Market, organized on September 16, 2023. It offered a great way to experience the house in a new light.

In the past, the house has hosted events like the Victorian Christmas celebration. Imagine the house decked out in holiday splendor, offering a unique way to celebrate the season. These events attract locals and visitors from far and wide, making it a community gathering spot.

But it’s not just about the events. The house also offers educational programs aimed at enriching the visitor experience. From guided tours to interactive sessions,

there’s always something happening at Körner’s Folly. These programs offer a deeper understanding of the house’s history, architecture, and the vision behind its creation.

The Körner’s Folly Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the house, is committed to keeping the legacy alive. They organize puppet shows, theatrical performances, and other activities that make the house more than a historic site.

Körner’s Folly is not just a place to admire architecture and history. It’s a vibrant space that offers a range of events and activities, making it a must-visit for anyone interested in culture, art, and community engagement.

Körner's Folly
Körner’s Folly” by jjandames is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Visiting Körner’s Folly: What You Need to Know

So, you’re convinced and want to visit Körner’s Folly? Great choice! Here’s what you need to know. The house is at 413 S. Main St., Kernersville, North Carolina. It’s open for self-guided tours from Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm, with the last entry at 3 pm.

Regarding parking, ample space is available, so you don’t have to worry about finding a spot. Once there, you can choose from various tour options offering a unique house perspective.

Ticket prices vary, so checking the official website for the most current information is best. Discounts are available for students and seniors, making it an affordable outing.

What can you expect during your visit? It is a journey through time, where each room offers a glimpse into the life and vision of Jule Körner. It’s an educational and entertaining experience, making it a perfect outing for families, history buffs, and architecture enthusiasts.

So, are you ready to explore Körner’s Folly? Its rich history, unique architecture, and range of activities make it a must-visit landmark that offers something for everyone.

Körner's Folly
Körner’s Folly” by jjandames is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Conclusion

From its unique architecture to the visionary man behind its creation, Körner’s Folly house is a history and art treasure trove. It’s not just a museum but a vibrant space that hosts events, educational programs, and much more.

So, why wait? Take the opportunity to visit this architectural wonder and experience its magic firsthand. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, Körner’s Folly offers an enriching and entertaining unique experience.

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