Destination Illinois: Tinker Swiss Cottage

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) – In this edition of Destination Illinois, we take a look back in time at Rockford’s Tinker Swiss Cottage. It’s a destination for history buffs and anyone interesting life as it was in the Old Victorian era. The home was built by a man named Robert Tinker.

“So Robert Tinker…. was what we like to joke around as the Shark tank of Rockford,” explained Samantha Hochman, the executive director at Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens.

It’s not hard to see why–he helped run an oatmeal company, a steel company, a railroad company, and even served a term as mayor.

“So he really just had his hands all over the city,” Hochman added.

Robert built the cottage (we use that term loosely) but it’s actually a 22-room mansion. He built it originally as a winter getaway for him and his wife, who also had a mansion just upstream on Kent Creek. They modeled it after a trip overseas.

“He fell in love with Swiss archichecture while traveling in Europe in 1862 and so we are just a small handful of homes around the U.S modeled after a Swiss Chalete,” Hochman said.

It’s not just the unique architecture that draws in big crowds.

“98 percent of what you see was from the Tinker family. So it’s basically like they just got up one day and just left everything behind. So everything you see on display is from this one family,” Hochman added.

Speaking of the Tinker family, many visitors claim–including our tour guide–that their spirit lives on inside the cottage.

“Occasionally we will hear them whispering… or humming. You’ll hear footsteps. The dresses from the old victorian era..They’ll make that swishing sound so you’ll hear that,” Hochman said.

So whether you are into ghosts or artifacts over 100 years old preserved in mint condition, Swiss cottage offers nearly two dozen rooms to explore.

Last year, Tinker Swiss Cottage attracted over 11,000 visitors. It opened to the public as a museum back in 1943.


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