Museum grounds

Summer at Tinker

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If you haven’t noticed yet, 2019 has proven to be quite the exciting year around Tinker Swiss Cottage! In the first half of the year we have wrapped up projects, hosted many events, and have had a change in staffing.

Cottage Changes

At the end of March 2019, the final phase of the Wallpaper Restoration project in Mary Tinker’s South Bedroom Suite was completed. After seven years of work, the entire South Bedroom and adjacent Dressing Room received a plasterwork treatment before the installation of a protective liner & decorative wallpaper. The wallpaper project was funded in part by the Jon Lundin Historic Preservation Grant of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois awarded in 2012 & 2014.

Graphic Conservation of Chicago, IL worked to retrieve samples of the original 1890’s historic wallpaper in 2012. Reproduction paper was later created from those samples by Wolffhouse Wallpapers LLC in January 2015. The non-historic wallpaper was removed by the staff in February 2015 using best practices and noninvasive techniques. Two additional revisions were necessary and the final draft of the wallpaper proof was approved by the Collections Committee in December of 2015. The paper was ordered after Board approval by the end of January 2016. Additional private funds were received in 2018 to be able to move forward with the installation of the paper.
We are thrilled that this project has come to completion and invite you to come visit on a tour to see the rooms restored to their original 1890s glory!

On June 5th the large White Oak tree in front of the Cottage was removed. This was a necessary project after many years of dead rot eating up the trunk and roots of the tree. As sad as we are to see it go, we believe it was best to take it down before it fell onto the Cottage. We have saved the trunk and will be turning it into an educational tool for our school field trips. We will also be selling portions of the tree in our gift shop in various forms. We are hoping for the first pieces to hit our shelves around the end of November!


Our annual Tinker Visions Fundraising Breakfast was a huge success! We love getting to share our year in review and upcoming events with our community and are very thankful for the community’s support in return! We would like to send a special thanks to Hoffman House and Patty Oliveri’s RPS 205 Culinary Arts Students for providing the banquet hall and breakfast. If you were unable to attend but would like to still donate, you can do so HERE!

We have continued hosting our monthly Murder Mystery Nights and Paranormal Tours & Investigations during the first half of this year and will continue to do so during the remainder of the year. History truly is alive inside Tinker’s Cottage!

In June we kicked off our Summer Lecture Series with award-winning filmmaker and author John Borowski. His lecture of “H.H.Holmes: Beyond Devil in the White City” centered on America’s first serial killer who had built his “Murder Castle” in Chicago, IL. This lecture was a huge success, and we are excited to announce that John Borowski will be returning in November due to popular demand!

Last, but surely not least, Tinker Swiss Cottage was fortunate to receive a Kjellstrom Family Foundation Grant in January, which allowed us to bring the entire 4th grade from the Harlem School District down for a field trip. For many students, this was the first time they had heard of our museum, and we are very thankful that we were able to share our collection and Rockford’s history with just over 500 students and teachers!

Tinker Staff

Please help us congratulate Samantha Hochmann for her promotion to Executive Director of Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens! This promotion took place at the beginning of March 2019. Samantha replaces Steve Litteral who relocated to Tennessee last August. She is responsible for all operations, management, and activities of Tinker Swiss Cottage as prescribed by the Board of Trustees. Since August of 2018 Samantha has been the Interim Executive Director and has proven her ability to fulfill the requirements of the position. Prior to this, Samantha held the position of Director of Education at Tinker Swiss Cottage where she would give tours, host events, and manage the gift shop among many other things. Samantha holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in History from Northern Illinois University. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Samantha at 815-964-2424 or via email at

Please join us in welcoming our new Director of Education and Collections, Stephanie Hartman. Stephanie has recently received her Bachelor’s Degree from Northern Illinois University and accepted this full-time position in May of 2019. She volunteered with Tinker Swiss Cottage as a summer intern in 2018, and began working part time in the fall of 2018. We are excited to have her join our team full-time! If you would like to contact Stephanie, you can reach her at

Coming Up

But we’re not through yet! Over the second half of this year, Tinker Swiss Cottage will continue to offer exciting events.


We are excited to partner with Once Upon A Dream Performances for the third year in a row to bring you our annual Fairy Tale Tea Party! The fun begins at 10:00am on Saturday July 13th and winds down at 12:00pm. Tinker’s Fairy Tale Tea is an adventure for everyone! We encourage all of those attending to join in the fun and dress as their favorite

Enjoy three delectable courses of kid approved favorites including, scones, sandwiches, and dessert to compliment your endless amount of tea. Special princess appearances and music will be provided by Once Upon A Dream Performances and Young at Heart! Join our special guests in songs, stories and lots of tea party goodies! A first floor tour of the Tinker Cottage is included in the cost of the tea. Tickets to this event can be purchased HERE!


On July 19th, Tinker Swiss Cottage is thrilled to partner with Haunted Rockford to bring the renowned Ghost Investigator Dale Kaczmarek and his Ghost Research Society (GHS) to investigate this exciting location. Guests will meet up for the investigation at the barn and will travel through four “hot spots” in an actual paranormal investigation. The price of this event is $40.00 and must be paid in advance at To make other arrangements, please call Kathi at 815-871-4239.

Haunted Rockford Tinker
Our next Speakeasy Murder Mystery Night occurs on July 27th at 6:00pm! Dust off your flapper dress, zoot suits, and Tommy guns and get ready for your Roaring Twenties Murder Mystery Party! At the height of prohibition, morale was high, morals were at an all-time low, and most of the country was controlled by the Mafia. Enjoy your night but keep your guard up, we’d hate to lose any of our clientele! You can purchase your tickets for this event HERE!



Our Summer Lecture Series continues with author Kathi Kresol’s “Unsolved Crimes of Winnebago County” on August 10th at 2:00pm!


Our Summer Lecture Series concludes with historian and author Amanda Becker’s “Rockford’s Forgotten Driving Park” on September 7th at 2:00pm!

To purchase tickets for either of these lectures, feel free to call the office at 815-964-2424, stop into the Barn, or just click HERE!

Remember – on top of all of these wonderful events we also offer general history tours of the Tinker Swiss Cottage year-round, Tuesdays through Sundays beginning at 1:00pm and 3:00pm. We look forward to seeing you soon!



Native American Tribes of the Rockford Area

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November is Native American Heritage Month, and we’d like to take some time to acknowledge the woodland tribes that once lived where our bustling city sits today.

Before the 1700s, Northern Illinois was primarily populated by the Illinois and Miami tribes. As Europeans pushed further inland, many tribes were forced to relocate. What we now refer to as Northern Illinois became home to a variety of tribes, including the Winnebago (Ho-Chunk), Sauk, Shawnee, Potawatomi, Fox, Kickapoo, and Dakota Sioux.

While each tribe had its own subset of languages, religion, and customs, we know that the tribes of this region flourished due to the climate, natural resources, and land in which they were located. Northern Illinois provided them with plenty of opportunity for both farming and hunting, due to the prairies and woodland areas. These areas also provided them with various plants, trees, and animals which they used for clothing, food, shelter, medicine, and ceremonies. Northern Illinois is also host to numerous rivers, creeks, and lakes – opening the opportunity for fresh water, fishing, and transportation.

Western Expansion forced these tribes to relocate to federal reservations; however, traces of their presence can still be found in the names of counties, towns, and sports teams. There are also many conical and effigy mounds remaining throughout Illinois, including places like Cahokia, Galena, and Rockford.
Tinkers 250 year old Oak and Indian Burial Mound
On your next trip to Tinker Swiss Cottage, you’ll be able to visit a conical burial mound, which has remained virtually undisturbed since approximately 1100 AD (other than one archeological core sample test). After your visit, be sure to stop by Beattie Park near the Rock River to visit three effigy mounds dating from the 7th to the 12th centuries.

From Rockford with Love: Postcards of the Victorians

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Have you heard? Tinker Swiss Cottage has opened its latest exhibit in the Cottage: From Rockford with Love: Postcards of the Victorians. Between the Red and Yellow rooms, you will find a fun collection of various postcards sent to the Tinkers from around the world and ones of our own Rockford area as well! Before you come to take a look at the beautiful Tinker postcards, here’s some more information on the history of the postcard for you.


Postcard 1
Postcard from Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens archives. ©TinkerSwissCottageMuseumandGardens



The History of Postcards

Postcards were first introduced in Britain in 1870. To begin with, the Post Office issued pre-stamped, plain cards. Because there were no images on the card, one side was used to address it, while the other side was used to write out a message to the receiver. It is believed that the first picture postcards were sent out in 1894. These cards required the sender to add a halfpenny adhesive stamp before mailing. In 1902 the British Post Office officially allowed divided back postcards on which senders could include both the address and message on the back of the postcard, while the face of the card contained an image.

Before postcards became widely available in the United States, during the early- to mid-19th century many envelopes would depict small images on their exteriors. While many displayed holiday images, thousands of patriotic pictures were printed on envelope exteriors during the Civil War. It is believed that these images on the envelopes in some part led to the creation of the postcard.

Records indicate that a copyright on a private postcard was issued as early as 1861. However, these were privately sold, non-pictorial cards. The first governmental postcards issued in the world came in October of 1869 in Austria; whereas, the United States issued the government postal card four years later in 1873. It wasn’t until 1907 that the U.S. Government permitted the use of divided back postcards. This development ushered in what is known as the “Golden Age” of the postcard. This era reigned from 1907-1915 where millions of postcards were printed and sold throughout the United States and Europe. The first “high-speed” photo printers were invented in 1910 and allowed real-photo postcards to be mass produced throughout the world. This invention shifted the emphasis of handmade postcards to large scale commercial printing.

What Purpose Does a Postcard Serve?

Postcards served a variety of purposes in the Victorian era. One of many reasons postcards became popular is due to the fact that it was a cheaper way to send messages; whereas, letters would take more postage to send, especially when they were a few pages long.

The first postcard printed with the intention to be sold as a souvenir debuted in 1893 at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. During the following years, the private printing of pictorial postcards boomed throughout the United States and Europe. Before 1893, many postcards contained advertisements for various businesses. However, after the Columbian Exposition, many saw the potential for producing other types of souvenir cards for tourists. By 1895, many postcards were printed with images depicting larger cities or famous tourist attractions of both natural and historic interest.

Advertisements on postcards were widely distributed, imploring one to buy this product or another. However, postcards could be used as propaganda as well. During times of war, the government issued postcards depicting images and advertisements convincing civilians to join the military and serve their country. Politically, postcards were used as a means to show who was running for office and who people should vote for.

The surge in souvenir postcards opened a new hobby for many people. Collecting postcards from one’s travels allowed one to revisit locations and bring back memories of their trips. It also allowed many people to see parts of the country, and even the world, that they would not have been able to visit for one reason or another. Collecting postcards also assisted in learning about new locations or the history of various places, such as our very own Tinker Swiss Cottage.

Postcards were used to not only write to family or friends from one’s vacation, but also as a means of showing off various tourist points of interest. By this means, postcard senders became a means of advertisement and propaganda for various industries and cities. These postcards became a means to draw in new and repeat visitors to locations across the world.

Themed postcards became widely popular as well, especially around the holidays. One of the most popular themes was Christmas. These Christmas postcards would be colorful and captured the Christmas spirit. As such, postcards would be used as decorations during the holidays – such as Christmas greeting cards are today. Throughout the year, in order to add colorful decorations throughout their homes, many would place the postcards they received from family and friends on tables, mantels, and shelves.

In the early 1900’s, cameras with the ability to print photographs directly onto the backs of postcards were invented. This development allowed people to photograph and share their images of their families, homes, and surroundings.

Our postcard exhibit will run through mid-January, so hopefully everyone will get a chance to stop by the Cottage to see these exciting pieces on display! After your tour, don’t forget to grab a few postcards from our gift shop as souvenirs of your visit to Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens!

Victorian Gardening

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Spring is finally here, and that means that the gardens at the Tinker Swiss Cottage are in full bloom! If you take a stroll through our gardens today you’ll see various types of flower beds, including Mary’s beloved roses and Jessie’s prize-winning irises. The Tinkers, along with other Victorian families, embellished their homes with sprawling gardens. New inventions allowed more exotic plants to be cultivated, grasses to be trimmed, and rooms dedicated to gardening were added on to homes.

In the early 1800s, Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward invented the Wardian Case by accident. He discovered that ferns, and other flowers, could grow very well inside glass bottles. This allowed Europeans to import more exotic plants, because encasing them in these Wardian Cases allowed them to remain in a constant climate without the damage that the change of air and temperature could bring. Another invention sprouting from the early years of the nineteenth century, the lawnmower transitioned from a large, difficult piece of machinery to a smaller, hand-driven tool. Around 1840, Victorians began incorporating trimmed lawns in their garden designs.

tinker flower 3.png

Many Victorians embellished their homes with their gardens. Vines hung from porches, urns and containers were filled with flowers and greenery to be set throughout the property, and vines grew up walls and trellises. Cast iron fences wrapped around many Victorian properties, both in the city and country. Rustic fences could be used, but were generally hidden by bushes and shrubbery.

While Victorians planted bushes, trees, and shrubs throughout their gardens, colorful flowers made up a large portion of the gardens. Symmetrical gardens, flower boxes, and ornate arrangements decorated Victorian homes. Throughout the era, exotic plants could be found in both private and public conservatories. While there are far too many to list, some of the more popular plants of the Victorian era includes: Azaleas, Holly, Hydrangeas, Roses, Lilacs, Peonies, ivy, Wisteria, Honeysuckle, Morning Glories, Tulips, Violets, Lavenders, and Ferns.

tinker flower 2.png

Robert Tinker purchased approximately 27 acres of land, where he planted flower gardens, vegetable gardens, and had pastures for his horses and cows. Throughout his home and property, Robert crafted rootwood furniture pieces, which you can see on your next trip out to the Cottage! On the opposite side of Kent Creek, Mary Dorr Manny Tinker owned a two-story, limestone brick mansion. She had her workers surround it with orchards, vegetable gardens, and the fashionable flower gardens of the Victorian era.

While Mary’s mansion and its surrounding gardens may no longer be stationed across the creek, she did bring over her love of pink heirloom-roses to Robert’s Cottage. Besides the circular rose garden located in front of the Cottage, a conservatory was added on to the house in 1882 to assist in caring for the gardens during the winter months. Using flower in interior designs also allowed the Tinkers to show off their favorite flowers. Not only were fresh bouquets located throughout the home, but on your next trip to the Cottage you’ll notice the beautiful pink flowers painted on the boarder in the Parlor. Perhaps you’ll also notice the hand painted bouquets of flowers on the dining room dishware.



tinker flower 4               tinker flower 1

We hope you enjoy the Tinkers’ gardens on your next visit as much as we do!

*Remember: We’re always looking for new friends to help us work our gardens as well! You can find more information about how to Volunteer at Tinker Swiss Cottage under our “Volunteering” tab!*



Donna's Picture of the Rose Garden
Tinker’s Rose Garden

Exploring Rockford’s Roots by Thinking Outside the Box

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All too often, we forget the beauty, history and culture that is in our own backyards. We frequently think of visiting these cultural treasures but regretfully do not. Lack of time or money seem to get in the way. Therefore, it is the job of institutions to connect with the communities that surround them. The biggest question is how? How do to provide access to these resources? How to create a memorable interaction? How do make a rewarding experience? Most importantly, how to make it affordable?

In 2013, a collaboration between organizations, museums and restaurants was born out of a desire to answer these questions and connect Rockford back to its history. Rockford was born on the Southwest side. Germanicus Kent, Thatcher Blake and Lewis Lemon arrived on the Kent Creek in 1834 and begin Rockford’s story. Today, South West Ideas For Today and Tomorrow (SWIFTT) along with Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum & Gardens, Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden and the Ethnic Heritage Museum will partner to offer tours for citizens and visitors to “Explore Rockford’s Roots.”

On May 31, these southwest Rockford attractions will open their doors to the public and offer food coupons that may be redeemed at eight area eating establishments. Admission is free to the three destinations, and patrons will receive coupons worth up to $8 each for lunch or dinner at participating restaurants: Zammuto’s, La Chiquita, Delicias Bakery, Las Palmas, Luichi’s Hot Dogs, Chiquita Food Market, Mi Ranchito Restaurant and Guanajuato.

We invite you to come and explore any or all of these locations:

 Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum & Gardens, 411 Kent St., was built in 1865 by former Rockford mayor Robert H. Tinker. It was modeled after a chalet-type architecture he saw on a trip to Switzerland. Tour this historic house museum and park. Guided tours of the first floor are given every 20 minutes from 1- 3 pm. Limit of 15 people per tour. The museum is not accessible to strollers and wheelchairs. Animals are not permitted inside the buildings.  Info: (815) 964-2424 or

• Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden, 2715 S. Main St. Enjoy the beauty of spring on 155 acres as the flowers are blooming. A former tree nursery, Klehm has a century of horticultural development and features a combination of plants native to the Midwest and from around the world. Friendly dogs on leashes are welcome. Hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily (Memorial Day – Labor Day). All buildings and paved garden paths and trails are accessible to strollers and wheelchairs. Info: (815) 965-8146 or

 The Ethnic Heritage Museum, 1129 S. Main St., celebrates the cultures and heritage of southwest Rockford, the place where Rockford began. It houses six galleries: African-American, Hispanic, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian and Polish. Special exhibits are featured throughout the year. The museum is open Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Info: (815) 962-7402 or

Rockford’s creativity happens all year long, but it being highlighted this May through Rockford Lutheran School’s Out of the Box movement. This collaboration is only one of many happening in Rockford. As a participant, we are proud to see many organizations think out of the box every day. We celebrate these partnerships and their continuous effort to promote variety and depth in the creative opportunities given in our community. For more information on Out of the Box events and activities, visit the calendar of events at

Mother’s Day Tea!

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Mary Manny-Tinker


Hello Everyone,

We have a great Mother’s Day Tea this Saturday (May 12, 2012) from 2-4 PM. We still have a few tickets left, and if you would like to join us, call 815-964-2424 to reserve your spot. The price is $30 for non-members, $25 for members, and $5 for children.

Have a great Mother’s Day Weekend!

TNT Paranormal at Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum!

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TNT Paranormal

Hello Everyone!

We are going to have special guests, TNT Paranormal Investigators here at the museum on Friday, March 30th from 7-10 PM. It will be for a special paranormal evening that is scheduled on the eve of our visit by author, Jeff Mudgett. The evening will start with a presentation by TNT and they will demonstrate some of the great evidence they have captured over the years. Then we will share with our guests some of the evidence that has been captured here at the museum, and we will do a night tour of the museum. TNT will be available for questions you may have about paranormal research. They are experts in their field, and their presentations are awesome. They have very impressive evidence to share!

The price is $15 for members of the museum, $20 if you pay ahead or $25 dollars at the door for everyone. Click HERE to see the payment information. Hurry to reserve your spot! We like to keep them at about 30 people, so make your reservation today! Thank you!

Gov. Quinn Visits The Museum!

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Gov. Quinn in the Tinker library

We had a visit from Illinois Gov. Quinn on January 17th to announce a grant to help build an Amtrak station across from the museum. We will once again have trains running from Chicago to Rockford. There has not been a passenger train between the two cities since the 1970’s.

We thank everyone that came out to the press conference!

Buy A Calendar With Tinker Inside!

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   My friends at Phantasmagoria Photography have created a new calendar! Tinker Swiss Cottage is inside (April)! Click HERE to take a peek and hopefully buy the calendar. Thank you!

Cindy Karnitz was on the Morning Blend!

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Our Executive Director of Administration, Cindy Karnitz, was on a local news show called ‘The Morning Blend.’ She was also on WTVO a few days later. We are becoming quite popular!



Happy Holidays from the Museum Staff and Board!

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Hello Everyone!

We would like to wish everyone Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

May 2012 be a prosperous year for you and your family, and we hope to see you here at the museum at one of our numerous events!

2012 will be the “Year of the Book” at the museum, and we will share some of the great events that we have coming up soon!

Be safe!

Railroad Lecture at the Museum!

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  We are pleased to announce that the museum is having a special lecture on the local railroads by Dr. Simon Cordery of Monmouth College in Illinois.

The lecture will be held at the museums Visitor Center on Saturday, January 14, 2012 from 2-3 PM.

Tickets are on sale now!

The price is $5 for non-members and $3 for museum members. If you would like more information on the event, give us a call at 815-964-2424 or email me @

Thank you for your support of the museum!

Decorated For Christmas!

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Hello Everyone!

The museum is beautifully decorated for Christmas! Come out and see the museum before we close for general admission tours in January and February!

We are open the last week from Tuesday Dec. 27th through Friday, December 30th, with guided tours at 1 PM and 3 PM!

We will open again for general admission tours on Thursday, March 1, 2012!

We hope to see you soon!

Tonight-The Society for Anomalous Studies

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    Hello Everyone,

This evening, so close to Halloween, we have special guests, The Society For Anomalous Studies. Here is a little bit about them:  “The Society for Anomalous Studies is a cooperative of experienced paranormal researchers who have come together to conduct well structured and objective investigations into claims of ghosts and hauntings, psychical and parapsychological experiences, Ufology and Cryptozoology.  The SAS’s mission is to seek out truths and facts as they are revealed through data collected following a scientific methodology.

Members of the SAS bring years of practical field and research experience to the table as well as professional diversity. The SAS is fortunate to have members who have military, aviation, electronic and engineering, computer programming, laboratory, writing, music, business, social work and education skills and experience. We feel this combination of research experience and professional skills puts the SAS in a good position to not only assist clients who may have had an anomalous experience but also make meaningful contributions to all these unique fields of study.

Covering both Wisconsin and Illinois, the society will consider serious investigation requests as well as offer free phone and e-mail consultations worldwide.”

It should be a great evening! Thank you to everyone for supporting our paranormal evenings!

Ghost Head Soup & Dale Kaczmarek at Tinker!

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Dale Kaczmarek

This Friday, those who have an RSVP (sorry we are full) will get to meet the paranormal team Ghost Head Soup and paranormal guru Dale Kaczmarek of the Ghost Research Society. Ghost Head Soup is a group of dedicated local paranormal professionals that has done a lot of pioneering research in the field, but they also like to have fun. Dale Kaczmarek has been a paranormal researcher before it was “cool” in the 1970’s. Dale is an author who gives numerous presentations across the country to help budding paranormal researchers. Basically, Dale has forgotten more about paranormal research than many people know combined. We are glad and honored to have both Ghost Head Soup and Dale Kaczmarek at our museum. Since our paranormal tours have become popular (they filled up fast), we have added two more dates on Friday November 11th at 7 p.m. and Friday, December 16th at 7 p.m. The cost is $15 per person. If you want to make sure that you are on the list, give us a call at 815-964-2424 or email me @ Hope to see you then!

Ghost Head Soup