Van Etten-Lacey House home to Center for the Literary Arts

When the Center for the Literary Arts opens this fall, it will have a home with historic ties to its English and creative writing department.

The center will be in the Van Etten-Lacey House, on Third Street SW in Mount Vernon and built in 1937 by Bernard Van Etten ’26 and author and highly-respected Cornell English Professor Winifred Mayne Van Etten ’25. Another legendary English professor, Stephen Lacey ’65, later lived in the house. When Lacey, who taught at the college from 1977 to 2000, lived there it became a favorite meeting place for students and faculty.

The house was built a year after Winifred Van Etten won a $10,000 prize from the Atlantic Monthly for the manuscript that would become her best-selling novel, “I am the Fox.” In 1956, the (Cedar Rapids) Gazette wrote an article detailing the house, which is constructed of limestone quarried in Stone City, Iowa. Bernard Van Etten, an architect and superintendent at the Iowa Manufacturing Company in Cedar Rapids, did the work on the house himself, even splitting the stones.

The house, which The Gazette headline called “A Little Castle of Iowa Limestone,” appears to be one story, but there is a second story below grade because of the steep drop of the hill. Nearly each room has a different type of wood used to panel the walls, from walnut to beech to tropical woods.

The purchase of the building was supported by the generosity of alumni and friends of the college.