Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Most Amazing Robert Tinker

I love visiting giant old house museums, and I do it often. But this was a first. Tinker's Swiss Cottage was all ORIGINAL. The rooms, the linens, the furniture, the art on the wall -- everything was exactly as it was when Robert Tinker built it 150 years ago. AMAZING.

Even Thomas Jefferson's home -- the stunning Monticello -- was basically dismantled.   The property was sold at auction, and all the furnishings were scattered.  When you visit, the things inside the house are just a best guess...

The Tinker Swiss Cottage was only ever owned by ONE family -- and they bequeathed it to the City of Rockford, with every piece of furniture, every family souvenir or treasure, including family papers and journals -- ALL KEPT IN PLACE.  
After an extended tour of Europe, Robert was inspired by the Swiss Chalet architecture. So, when he came back to Rockford, he built this cottage on a 40 acre estate.
Now -- a word about where all the money came from.

In 1853, John Henry Manny started to manufacture the Manny Reaper (an early combine, pulled by horses).  It could be argued that the reaper was one of the most important inventions of the 19th Century, because for the first time, farmers were able to grow more grain than their own families could consume.  Farmers being able to sell their surplus meant the city populations could grow...and grow... 

Cyrus McCormack sued John Manny for patent infringement.  Manny hired Abraham Lincoln -- and won the suit.  Unfortunately, only two years later,  John Manny died -- leaving his widow,  Mary Dorr Manny, to run his business.  Which was really not allowed in the 1850's...so Mary had to hire people.

One of the new guys was a young accountant from New York -- Robert Tinker.   After a torrid love affair that scandalized Rockford (I am making some of this up -- but can't you just imagine??  He was much younger than her...and she sent him off to Europe with FULL PAY...until the gossip died down...so I'm reading between the lines...)

Robert and Mary were eventually married -- and it lasted for 30 years (until her death).  She had an elaborate mansion (the largest house in the city) -- and he built his cottage just across the creek (with a nice suspension foot bridge).

Robert was a gifted artist -- and his entire body of work is housed in his cottage.  Actually, the Swiss Chalet itself was probably his biggest work of art.
One of the most astonishing things in the Chalet is this spiral staircase...made out of one piece of wood. Put under steam pressure and gently curved for 2 1/2 years...HOLY COW...WHO'S GOT THAT KIND OF TIME??!!
This pocket door has a smaller door in the middle.  SO interesting...
Every detail is original -- including the fixtures which were a combination of gas and electric.
A crappy photo of me and Becky -- taken in a mirror.  One of my signature pics...
Robert painted these frescos...they are all original to the cottage...
Robert made exquisite furniture out of tree roots.  This is a loveseat.  Just stunning...
Becky and I had such a wonderful day in Rockford.  As I was driving home, I took this picture of the sky. This is as good as it gets, people...

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