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

YearLocationNamesAgeInfo
1870Brackett, William45Carpenter
  Elisabeth44Keeps House
  Edgar16Student
  Clara10Attends School
Neff, Myron24School Teacher
  Anna Brackett Neff22Keeps House
  Fred4/12
1880Liberty St.Brackett, William55Carpenter
  Elizabeth44Keeps House
  Clara20Music Teacher
Thompson, William16Boarder
Dowe, William17Boarder
Hosman?, Grace16Boarder
1890- Census destroyed by Fire
1900Smith, Clara Brackett40?Carpenter
  Elisabeth6In School
Hartung, Charles22Lodger/ Bookkeeper in Bank
Kreb, Emma20Servant
1910Smith, Clara B.50Bookeeper/ Bank
  Elisabeth16None
Svaoboda, Mary24Servant
1920Spear, Armstrong65None
  Clara Brackett Smith58None
  Smith, Elisabeth26News Reporter
Svaoboda, Marie25Maid
1930Blinks, Clara58None
Scisnty?, Eva26Lodger/ Secretary for College President
Smedley, Lillian62Lodger/ Teacher- College
Woodford, Carrie24Lodger/ Teacher- College
1940Blinks, Clara65None
Cocroft?, Robert28Lodger/ Assistant Professor-Chemistry