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Kernersville, North Carolina

Körner’s Folly

Jule Körner's house full of bizarre architectural details. 

This unique house is a wonder of workmanship and design, featuring numerous architectural oddities and centered around a spiral staircase that rises 100 feet through the center of the house. Located in Kernersville, North Carolina, Körner’s Folly was the home of decorator, designer and painter Jule Gilmer Körner. Körner was the head of a growing interior decoration business when in 1878, at the age of 27, he began to build this house.

Before long, neighbors and passersby were stopping to gaze at this strange structure rising toward the sky. One such passerby, Körner’s cousin, remarked: “Twenty years from now, this house will surely be Jule Körner’s folly.” A nearby construction worker repeated the comment to the architect, thinking he could stir a family tiff, but the quick-witted Körner was so charmed by this description that he chose to call the house Körner’s Folly. The name is set in the tiles outside the front door.

Though the house was “finished” in 1880, ongoing revisions and renovations continued throughout Körner’s life, and upon his death in 1924, he still believed it incomplete.

Today this eccentric structure contains 22 rooms on three floors and seven levels. Ceiling heights range from five and a half to 25 feet. There are 15 fireplaces of various designs, featuring American Encaustic tiles, and decorative murals by the German artist Caesar Milch can be found in almost every room.

While Jule Körner’s house may have indeed been a folly, folly has many meanings. One definition is that of a foolish act, while another is a ridiculous and extravagant building, both applicable in this case. However the word folly comes from “folie” and once meant “delight.” Perhaps Körner’s folly qualifies for all these definitions.