Bracket House – 418 Second Street SW

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William Brackett built Brackett house in 1862, which now serves as Cornell College’s bed and breakfast. He also erected Mount Vernon’s first brick schoolhouse, built its second Methodist church, and completed King Chapel.

The Bracketts had three children: Edgar, Anna, and Clara. For his musical daughter, Clara, he purchased a piano for the then enormous sum of $1,200. She enrolled in the first class of the newly established Conservatory of Music and, after graduating in 1881, joined the faculty and taught piano.

When Clara married William Smith, a former pharmaceuticals salesman and one of the founders of the local bank, they set up house in her childhood home. In later years, her house was the site of many receptions, dinners, and overnight stays for distinguished musicians and other visitors. Perhaps the most famous of her guests was former U.S. President William Howard Taft, who came for three days in November 1916 to lecture at Cornell. She owned the first phonograph in Mount Vernon and was the first Mount Vernon woman to appear at the polls to cast her vote after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Widowed, Clara married her classmate, Armstrong Spear, in 1912. They remodeled and enlarged the house. When she died in 1927, she bequeathed the house to her daughter, Elisabeth Smith Ford, Class of 1915, a New York journalist and novelist. Elisabeth deeded the house to the college with the proviso that it bear the surname of her grandfather and that her grade school teacher, Clara Blinks, be permitted to live there for as long as she wished. When Miss Blinks died in 1952, the college converted the house into an office for the Alumni Association with guest rooms on the second floor.

Excerpt from Cornell College: 150 Years From A to Z by Charles J. Milhauser. WDG Publishing, 2003.

Brackett Family Tree

Photo of Brackett Family Tree
Brackett Family Tree

Brackett House Census

Year Location Names Age Info
1870 Brackett, William 45 Carpenter
  Elisabeth 44 Keeps House
  Edgar 16 Student
  Clara 10 Attends School
Neff, Myron 24 School Teacher
  Anna Brackett Neff 22 Keeps House
  Fred 4/12
1880 Liberty St. Brackett, William 55 Carpenter
  Elizabeth 44 Keeps House
  Clara 20 Music Teacher
Thompson, William 16 Boarder
Dowe, William 17 Boarder
Hosman?, Grace 16 Boarder
1890- Census destroyed by Fire
1900 Smith, Clara Brackett 40 ?Carpenter
  Elisabeth 6 In School
Hartung, Charles 22 Lodger/ Bookkeeper in Bank
Kreb, Emma 20 Servant
1910 Smith, Clara B. 50 Bookeeper/ Bank
  Elisabeth 16 None
Svaoboda, Mary 24 Servant
1920 Spear, Armstrong 65 None
  Clara Brackett Smith 58 None
  Smith, Elisabeth 26 News Reporter
Svaoboda, Marie 25 Maid
1930 Blinks, Clara 58 None
Scisnty?, Eva 26 Lodger/ Secretary for College President
Smedley, Lillian 62 Lodger/ Teacher- College
Woodford, Carrie 24 Lodger/ Teacher- College
1940 Blinks, Clara 65 None
Cocroft?, Robert 28 Lodger/ Assistant Professor-Chemistry