Tinker Cottage restoration progresses

Tinker Cottage restoration progresses


For the past two months, the public has been able to see Tinker Swiss Cottage in a whole new way. The Cottage, once the home of Rockford businessman Robert H. Tinker (1836-1924), is in the midst of a large-scale facelift, and visitors have been encouraged to observe the conservation work in progress while touring the Cottage.

Over the years, decorative plaster ceilings in the 1865 home had succumbed to dirt and discoloration. Cracks had spread throughout the ceilings of the formal parlor, dining

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room, and a bedroom suite. To solve these problems, museum officials hired EverGreene Painting Studios to repair the plaster, repaint lost details and clean the historic murals to uncover the vivid artwork underneath. EverGreene, a conservation group out of Chicago, had previously worked in Rockford as part of the Coronado Theatre restoration project.

After two months, the first phase of work is nearing completion. The dining room ceiling designs were formerly gray and rust; after weeks of conservation treatment, the original colors—beautiful peaches, pinks, creams and soft greens—have been revealed.

Likewise, the Tinkers’ sitting room has been transformed and returned to its Victorian splendor. The ceiling design had at some point, say conservators, been covered by wallpaper. The removal of this paper damaged and disturbed the original mural design. Past attempts to repair and repaint these areas resulted in a splotchy appearance. Conservators have carefully cleaned soiled areas of the ceiling and have consolidated the plaster cracks. Borders once painted over have been reinstated, and faded gold stars and decorative lines have received a new layer of 23-carat gold.

Currently, the conservators have turned their attention to the decorative ceiling in the Tinkers’ formal parlor. This room has proven to be the most challenging of the bunch. In addition to the soils to be removed, they have also found sections of plaster that have weakened and pulled away from the wood lathe. Using mechanical fasteners and a thicker consolidant, they will stabilize the ceiling before attempting to reinstate the original designs and color schemes.

With the completion of work on the decorative ceilings, EverGreene Painting Studios will begin a second phase of work and turn their attention to the front hall, staircase, and upstairs hallway. Designs found inside a hallway closet suggest that the hallway walls were once decorated with a trompe l’oeil panel design. Conservators will use various solvents to remove top layers of paint and expose the original design. The Museum then hopes to be able to reinstate this design on the hallway walls.

Throughout the restoration work, the Cottage is open to the public. For more information, call the Museum office at 964-2424.

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