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Area // Rockford Southwest

Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens

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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.

© Rockford Park District - Photo by Jesse Fox

Meeting Amenities
  • Admission: (Prices subject to change)
    $9 adults, $8 Seniors (65+), $5 children age 6-17, Free for children age 5 and younger and museum members. Donation Days vary. Please check the website for upcoming dates.
  • Hours: (Hours subject to change)

    Tours are open year round. General admission tours Tuesday through Sunday at 1pm and 3pm.The Museum is closed for tours on Mondays. All tours are guided. No reservations required.

    Please call for groups of 10 or more and bus tour rates. Group tours must schedule a minimum of three days in advance.

    All tours begin in the Barn, which is a re-construction of the Tinker family barn.

    No flash photography is permitted inside the Cottage. Sitting, leaning, touching or handling of the objects is strictly prohibited.

    Accessibility: Due to the nature of the Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum, accessibility is limited. There are no ramps leading into the museum nor elevators inside the museum. The Barn, where all tours begin, is wheel chair accessible. Visitors using wheelchairs or strollers may be dropped off at the Barn, with free handicapped parking nearby.
Attraction Amenities
  • Parking - Free:
  • Picnic Area:
  • Public Restroom:
Discounts & Packages
  • AAA Discount:
  • Discount for Seniors or AARP:
  • Alcohol Prohibited:
  • Food NOT Available:
Group Tour/Motorcoach
  • Motorcoach Parking:
  • Tour Group Check-In:
  • Tour Group Greeter:
  • Tour Guide Available (Free):
  • Accepts Major Credit Cards:
  • Accepts Personal Checks:
Rates & Reservations
  • Admission Charge:
  • Reservation Available (Please Call):
  • Reservations Required for Groups:
  • A/V Equipment & Staff Resources Provided:
  • ADA Approved:
  • Brief History/Description: Tinker Museum and Gardens is a treasure trove of a time gone by. Built in 1865, this historic house museum sits on the founding pioneer site of Rockford, and it offers an ideal setting for meetings and special occasions. Several areas of the museum are available for rental.
  • Food & Beverage - Outside Catering Allowed:
  • Parking - Free:
  • Parking - Motorcoach/Trailer:
  • Tables and Chairs Available:
Facility Info
Meeting Rooms
  • Banquet Capacity 50
Lower Level of Barn
  • Classroom Capacity: 50
  • Banquet Capacity: 50
  • Reception Capacity: 50