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Rockford museum opens early

Tinker Swiss Cottage also site of March book signing

Published: Friday, Feb. 10, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT
(Photo submitted by Steve Litteral)
Rockford’s Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum has its own bridge. The house was built in 1865, and included a suspension bridge across Kent Creek. Built by Robert Hall Tinker, the bridge connected his land to other Tinker family property that was purchased by the railroad in 1906.

ROCKFORD – The lack of snow this winter must seem like a present to the Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum & Gardens.

The mild weather has made it possible to open the doors for general admission tours earlier than usual. Steve Litteral, executive director of operations, announced the museum will be open this month. In fact, it’s open now, so embrace the lack of snow with a visit to this nearby facility.

Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum once was the home of Robert Hall Tinker, who built it in 1865. The house overlooks Kent Creek, and its architecture has a Swiss flair. The Tinker family donated the home to the Rockford Park District, which turned it into a museum in 1943.

Guided tours of the home are available at 1 and 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.

When the weather heats up, save some time to see the museum’s gardens. They range from a prairie meadow to an iris garden. In between, the Victorian rose garden, heirloom vegetable garden, railroad garden and gardens west of the visitor center fill in with their own beauty.

Inside, visitors will see items from the 75 years the Tinkers lived there.

To make the site even more interesting, a pre-Columbian burial mound has been found there. It shows people were enjoying the Tinkers’ building area 1,000 years ago.

A special treat is coming to the museum’s visitor center in March. Jeff Mudgett, the author of “Bloodstains,” will sign his book from 1 to 5 p.m. March 31. He is the great-great-grandson of Herman Mudgett, a serial killer who was featured in “The Devil In The White City,” by Erik Larson.

Herman Mudgett was the creator of the “murder castle” during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Jeff Mudgett discovered his relationship to the killer when he was 40, after finding Herman’s diaries. Those diaries also have provided a link for those who believe Herman was London’s infamous Jack the Ripper. Writing samples from the diaries and Ripper letters seem to show a 97.75 percent match.

The author will speak, then will sign books in the library. Other true crime and paranormal authors will be at the event, too. All authors will be selling their books.

There is a charge to attend; book prices will vary by author.

Whether a guest chooses a quiet time for a tour to savor the house, or the hustle and bustle of visiting authors, Tinker Swiss Cottage is sure to brighten and enlighten.

If you go

What: Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum & Gardens

Where: 411 Kent St., Rockford

When: 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays

Special event: Authors signing books,   1 to 5 p.m. March 31

Cost: $7 for adults, ages 18 to 64; $6 for seniors, 65 and older; $4 for students age 5 to 17, and free to children 4 and younger. Author event: $5

Information: Visit or call 815-964-2424

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