Alice Austen House and Garden

NY_NYC_AliceAustenHouse_signature_CourtesyAliceAustenHouse.jpg
Staten Island, NY
United States
Alice Austen House and Garden

On the eastern shore of Staten Island lies a tribute to a one of the earliest American women photographers, Alice Austen (1866-1952). Challenging strict Victorian gender boundaries and capturing documentary images of everyday life in Staten Island and Manhattan, Austen’s largest influence was likely her home, known during her lifetime as Clear Comfort. Here, she photographed her family, friends, and surroundings, and developed the glass plates in a darkroom on the second floor. The oldest part of the house was built in 1690, and was expanded in the Carpenter Gothic style along with the carefully landscaped grounds under the Austen family’s ownership from 1884 until financial problems forced Austen and her partner of more than 50 years, Gertrude Tate, to leave in 1945. The house and its approximately one-acre site were rehabilitated by Beyer Blinder Belle in the 1980s based on Austen’s extensive photography of the site. A founding member of the Staten Island Garden Club, her garden included shrubs such as weeping mulberry, flowering quince, and Japanese wisteria, which shaded the piazza. The front porch offers views of the Narrows and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and a gravel path leads to Buono Beach. To the south is a large meadow surrounded by canopy trees. Since Austen’s era, the beach has eroded significantly, and the crib walls have been destroyed. Many mature trees have been lost, and the original entrance drive has been altered. The house and associated parkland are operated by the Friends of Alice Austen House, Inc. and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, with continuing preservation efforts underway. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993.