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Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens

411 Kent St.
Rockford  Illinois  61102
United States
(815) 964-2424
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Midwest Living Review

Kit Bernardi
Like a time capsule, this 1865 Swiss chalet-style museum preserves the original furnishings and collections of three prominent Rockford families.

The chalet-style Tinker Swiss Cottage looks like something out of a storybook. The idyllic scene seems to conflict with its industrial railroad surroundings but illustrates Rockford's evolution from a rural community to a manufacturing center. The 27-acre grounds incorporate 300-year-old oaks, 1,000-year-old Native American burial mounds, and the now-shuttered 1925 Nelson Sock Factory that once produced the red-heeled socks used to make Sock Monkey toys. A suspension bridge carries visitors across Kent Creek to formal gardens and an 1834 pioneer gristmill. 

The 20-room former home of businessman Robert Tinker is a time capsule of Victorian life, preserving original furnishings, diaries and collections dating from 1865 to 1943. Tromp l'oeil frescos decorate the kitchen, and Tinker expanded the oldest portion of the home to include a conservatory, dining room, turreted two-story library and master bedroom decked out with furniture from the 1855 New York World's Fair. Among the artifacts, look for the carved porcelain lithophane light fixture in the smoking porch off the dining room and the Cabinet of Curiosities within the library.

Guided tours are conducted Tuesday through Sunday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.; admission is $7.

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