Tinker Swiss Cottage is a historic house museum located in the heart of Rockford, Illinois. The museum complex contains the historic house museum, barn, and carriage house from the Tinker family. In addition, the property is the home of the founding site of Rockford and contains a Pre-Columbian Native American conical mound. Robert Tinker's inspiration for the Cottage came during his tour of Europe in 1862, where he fell in love with the architecture of Switzerland. In 1865, Robert began building his Swiss Cottage on the limestone bluff overlooking Kent Creek.
Robert surrounded his Swiss Cottage with over 27 acres of trees, vines, winding pathways, flowerbeds, and gardens. A three-story Swiss inspired barn was added to the property which housed cows, chickens, and horses.
On the side of the Cottage, Robert constructed a suspension bridge crossing the Kent Creek. This bridge linked the Cottage with his wife's, Mary Dorr Manny Tinker, limestone mansion and grounds. In 1906, the railroad bought the remainder of Mary's estate. At the end of Robert's suspension bridge, he planted elaborate gardens deemed the Railroad Gardens where passengers could stroll as they waited for the train.
The Tinker family, the sole occupants of the Swiss Cottage, left their home to the Rockford Park District and their household belongings to trustees after seventy-five years of residence. Filled with original furnishings, artwork, diaries, clothing and household items, the Cottage is a rich time capsule of life during the Victorian Era. The Cottage is also one of only a handful of Swiss-style homes remaining in the United States.
In 1943, Tinker Swiss Cottage opened to the public as a museum and is supported in part by the Rockford Park District.
Tinker Swiss Cottage has been marked as a place of historic significance by the Rockford Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and has been named one of Illinois' 150 Great Places by the American Institute of Architects, Illinois Council. This prestigious award is given to places that have been identified by leading architects as contributing to their communities' quality of life. General Admission Tours are Tuesday-Sunday at 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM. Guided tours are required for admission into the museum.