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Tinker Swiss celebrates 60 years

July 1, 1993

On Sunday, June 13, 1943, just a year after the death of Mrs. Jessie Tinker, a dedicated group of local citizens opened the doors of Tinker Swiss Cottage to the public for the first time and invited 1,500 people to enjoy the unique and spectacular Cottage.

A special new exhibit celebrating the 60th anniversary of this event opened June 8 in the lower level of the Tinker Barn and Visitor Center and will be on display through Nov. 23, 2003. The exhibit, “A Museum is Born,” celebrates the dedicated volunteers who preserved Tinker Swiss Cottage over the years and transformed it from a private residence to a community treasure. The exhibit is made possible through the support of M. Constance Tucker.

After Mrs. Tinker’s death, opinions on what to do with the historic Cottage varied greatly. Early discussion generated such suggestions as tearing Tinker Swiss Cottage down or moving it lock, stock and barrel to Beattie Park. Among the early leaders rallying to save the Cottage was Rockford’s then mayor, C. Henry Bloom. The Rockford Park District owned the land and building but was initially uncertain it could care for the estate as a museum.

Throughout the past 60 years, volunteers have worked hard to preserve and restore the Cottage, as well as make it an active community resource. By the 1950s, an auxiliary took charge of tours, routine cleaning and fund-raising events. Funds generated were used for necessary restoration projects. By the 1980s, the Museum Board of Trustees and Auxiliary had begun to look to the future: conservators were consulted regularly, and the organization began moving toward a professionally trained staff that could put standard museum practices into place. The past decade has seen remarkable professionalization, restoration of the Tinkers’ estate, and dramatic growth of educational programs for all ages.

“A Museum is Born!” is open during regular museum hours, Tuesday through Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is charged to tour the historic Tinker Swiss Cottage; there is no additional fee to see the exhibit. The Museum is just south of Davis Park off South Main Street at 411 Kent St.

Rockford businessman Robert Tinker built Tinker Swiss Cottage in 1865 after he was inspired by the architecture of Switzerland during a grand tour of Europe. The home is filled with the Tinker family’s original furnishings, artwork and household belongings, and is a veritable treasure trove of Rockford history. The Cottage is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Third Annual Quilt Raffle

Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum is raffling off a beautiful heirloom-quality quilt to raise funds to support its educational programs and help maintain the historic Cottage. Last year’s raffle raised a total of $1,367.

This year’s queen-size quilt (75 feet x 100 feet), titled “Fine Weather for Barn Building,” is red, green and gold in a pattern of “log cabin” style quilt blocks. The blocks are set in a “barn-raising” pattern in honor of the newly reconstructed Tinker Barn. The new building is being used as the Museum’s Visitor Center. The name of the quilt is a quote from Robert Tinker’s 1873 diary when he was raising his own barn.

The quilt was pieced by Museum Curator Donna Langford and quilted by Rose Marie Mize of The Quilter’s Loft in Bloomington, Ill. Tickets for a chance to win this coverlet will be sold until Dec. 14 for $1 each or six for $5. Tickets are available at the Museum, 411 Kent St., where the quilt is on display. The winning ticket will be drawn Dec. 14, and you need not be present to win.

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