Stateline Strong: Museum Director Passes on Passion for the Past

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Follow Steve Litteral’s footsteps through Rockford’s iconic Tinker Swiss Cottage, and you’ll learn a thing or two.

“This is your typical example of a mid 1800’s mourning dress,” explained Litteral as he pointed to the manikin holding Mrs. Tinker’s black dress. Everything that is in the house is original to the house. The walls can’t hide anything from Steve, even if he’s prefer a little secrecy sometimes.

“You get a feeling like someone is watching you,” said Steve. The museum is well known for it’s paranormal activity.

Steve Litteral has been the executive director of the historic house museum for ten years. Even Litteral admits he’s a history nerd. His passions started at a young age, and motivated him at the age of 17 to join the military.

“I thought, you know, I’ve read about history for a long time, I’d like to actually participate and do something,” said Steve about his decision to join the military right out of high school.

He served as a U.S. Army paratrooper in both Panama and off the Korean coast.  But it’s back home where he hopes to really make his mark. He hopes to encourage kids to experience history in the very rooms it was made.

“[I just want to] kind of show them what life was like in the Victorian period in Rockford, and I think they learn more that way by seeing a beautiful house and actually getting their hands dirty than…sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture,” said Steve.

Steve knows that what people learn about the faces framed in this house can change their entire frame of mind.

“It’s a good way for people to not just learn about this family, and the house, but also about Rockford history,” explained Steve. “I think if they learn more about, they’ll be prouder to live in this area.”

Steve’s never-ending mission takes him to the Rockford Public Library on a frequent basis.

“It’s always interesting to find out, you know, what was really happening because…you have an idea of what it was like here back then, but until you actually read their diaries and their newspapers…you can get a sense of  what people were really going through at that time,” said Steve.

Whether it’s seated in solitude in the library, or roaming the grounds of Tinker Swiss Cottage, Steve’s passion for the past aims to enlighten us on what has yet to unfold.

“Things that happen now, will be affecting the future,” said Steve.

Steve Litteral is now working on creating a podcast which will highlight Rockford’s history.

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