Elizabeth Alice Austen House –
|Location||2 Hylan Boulevard|
New York City, New York
|Architectural style||Dutch Colonial, later Gothic Revival|
|NRHP reference #||70000925|
|Added to NRHP||July 28, 1970|
|Designated NHL||April 19, 1993|
|Designated NYCL||August 2, 1967|
The Alice Austen House, also known as Clear Comfort, is located at 2 Hylan Boulevard in the Rosebank section of Staten Island, New York City, New York. It was home of Alice Austen, a photographer, for most of her lifetime, and is now a museum and a member of the Historic House Trust. The house is administered by the "Friends of Alice Austen", a volunteer group. Today, the Alice Austen House hosts many school programs, including photography summer camps and day trips for classes of all age groups.
It was originally built in the 1690s/early 1700s as a one-room Dutch Colonial House on the shore of New York harbor, near the Narrows with brothers Jacob Johnson and Lambert Johnson being the likely first occupants. The brothers Johnson purchased 120 acres of land from George Brown in 1698. Jacob Johnson's mother-in-law was Winifred King Benham, who was tried for witchcraft in Wallingford, Connecticut, and may have been a resident of the house after her acquittal and virtual banishment.
The house was remodeled and expanded several times in the 1800s, most notably after John Haggerty Austen, Alice's grandfather, purchased, renamed, and remodeled it in 1844.
It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, became a New York City Landmark in 1971. It was purchased by New York City in 1975 and opened to the public. In 1993 it became a National Historic Landmark, and in 2002, it became a Historic Artist Home and Studio.
Alice Austen House participates as a museum in the Smithsonian program of Museum Day events. In 2016 Austen House presented its first juried triennial exhibition, Staten Island Unlimited featuring 35 photographers from three boroughs of New York. During the members' preview reception of the show, a toast was made to Alice Austen's 150th birthday. Other activities included Triennial Talks, discussions with artists about their work on the subjects of "Staten Island as Place" and "Staten Island as Community." The first Staten Island Unlimited was supported by Macy's, Duggal, and, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council.
In March 2016, the Whitney Museum hosted New Eyes on Alice Austen, a panel discussion in honor of Women's History Month and Alice Austen's 150th birthday featuring, as reported in American Photo magazine, "scholars, academics, and historians who have investigated her incredible work and unconventional lifestyle." The Whitney program was made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence.
An old neighborhood tradition told that, after midnight, one could hear the clanking of chains coming from the cellar. This was attributed to the ghosts of slaves who were kept there during the American Revolution. Another apocryphal story is that of a British soldier hanging himself from a beam in the parlor because of a broken heart. It is said that the sound of his military boots and the clinking of his spurs may be heard in that room after midnight.
The Alice Austen House was built in 1690. In 1844 it was purchased by John Haggerty Austen, Alice Austen's grandfather, a well-to-do businessman, whose wife gave the house the name Clear Comfort. ... Restoration was begun in January 1984 and completed in April 1985. Because of its historic significance, the Alice Austen House was included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, was designated a New York City Landmark in 1971, and a National Historic Landmark in 1993.
For 78 years, this was the home Elizabeth Alice Austen (1866-1952), a remarkable photographer whose work predates in subject matter and technique the photographs of other giants in the field. Austen began her career in the 1870s, and, although she used subjects as other women photographers of her time, her pictures have a realistic and natural edge rather than the blurry romantic view advocated by magazines of the time. Austen also veered away from the conventional studio poses; instead she took pictures of people during the course of their normal activities.
For 78 years, this was the home Elizabeth Alice Austen (1866-1952), a remarkable photographer whose work predates in subject matter and technique the photographs of other giants in the field.
In 1975, recognizing the importance of Alice Austen to New York's history, the City purchased the House and restored it and the grounds to their 19th-century appearance. Today, Clear Comfort operates as a museum, featuring exhibits of Austen's work and contemporary photography as well as period rooms that have been recreated based on photographs. A National Historic Landmark, the House was inducted in 2002 into the National Trust for Historic Preservation's highly selective group of Historic Artists' Homes and Studios. Alice Austen House Museum is owned by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, operated by the Friends of Alice Austen Inc., and is a member of the Historic House Trust.
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