The Swedish Cottage was brought to the United States as part of the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. Modeled after a traditional schoolhouse, the design caught the eye of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, who transported it to its permanent home in Central Park.
Since 1939, it has served as a puppet theater. The Marionette Theatre here remains one of the few such dedicated marionette companies in the US. Company artists write and adapt their own scripts, construct and costume the puppets, and design and produce every show. The theater's productions are based on classic fairy tales from around the world, and are presented to children ages 3-9.
The building features a wealth of Scandinavian detail. The original Baltic fir exterior has been completely restored, as has the interior’s second-floor balcony. There is seating for 100 children, central air-conditioning and a somewhat larger stage than previously for more sophisticated productions. American and Swedish flags fly from its roof. In 2001 the cottage became a member of the Historic House Trust of New York City.
Each fall, the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre presents a new production of a classic fairy tales such as Cinderella or Pippi. Each performance lasts approximately one hour.
The cottage also has a private party room that can hold up to 30 people. Featuring child-sized furniture, the room is available for children's birthday parties.
In addition to the performances at Swedish Cottage, the company uses a traveling puppet theater to perform in city schools and elsewhere. All performances include an educational component: ranging from puppet-making workshops to discussions with children on the art of marionette theater. A classroom study guide is provided to all teachers. The performances, in general, meet all federal, state and city curriculum requirements.