Elizabeth Alice Austen House –
Clear Comfort[1]
Alice Austen House
Alice Austen House
Alice Austen House
Location2 Hylan Boulevard
Staten Island
New York City, New York
Coordinates40°36′53.7″N 74°3′49″W / 40.614917°N 74.06361°W / 40.614917; -74.06361Coordinates: 40°36′53.7″N 74°3′49″W / 40.614917°N 74.06361°W / 40.614917; -74.06361
Architectural styleDutch Colonial, later Gothic Revival[3]
NRHP reference No.70000925
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJuly 28, 1970[2]
Designated NHLApril 19, 1993[4]
Designated NYCLAugust 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.[5] 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.[6] The house is administered by the "Friends of Alice Austen", a volunteer group.[7] Today, the Alice Austen House hosts many school programs, including photography summer camps and day trips for classes of all age groups.[8]


View of the house from the beach
View of the house from the beach
View over New York Bay
View over New York Bay

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.[9] 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.[10]

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.[2]

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.[7][2]

Museum special exhibitions and activities

Alice Austen House participates as a museum in the Smithsonian program of Museum Day events.[11] In 2016 Austen House presented its first juried triennial exhibition, Staten Island Unlimited featuring 35 photographers from three boroughs of New York.[12] 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."[13] 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.

The Alice Austen House permanent collection of Alice Austen's photography, including many of her documentary photos, is being digitized and presented on the museum's website.

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."[14] The Whitney program was made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence.

Alleged haunting

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.[15]

See also


  1. ^ National Park Service (March 31, 2017), Weekly List of Actions Taken on Properties: 3/20/2017 through 3/24/2017, archived from the original on April 4, 2017, retrieved April 4, 2017. The house was originally entered on the National Register as the "Elizabeth Alice Austen House". Its National Historic Landmark designation uses the name "Alice Austen House". Its National Register listing name was subsequently updated to "Elizabeth Alice Austen House – Clear Comfort" in 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d "Alice Austen House Museum and Park". Statenislandusa.com. Archived from the original on 2008-08-03. Retrieved 2008-08-05. 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.
  3. ^ Dolkart, Andrew S. & Postal, Matthew A.; Guide to New York City Landmarks, 3rd Edition; New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2004. ISBN 0-471-36900-4; p.342.
  4. ^ "Alice Austen House". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-14. Archived from the original on 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 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.
  5. ^ Wilson, Claire. "Living In Rosebank, Staten Island: A Quiet Slice of New York Waterfront", The New York Times, March 12, 2006. Accessed November 3, 2007. "In July, the same group holds a picnic and concert with an 18-piece band on the grounds of Clear Comfort, the former home, now a museum, of Alice Austen, a native Staten Islander who was a pioneering female photographer."
  6. ^ "Alice Austen House". Places Where Women Made History. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 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.
  7. ^ a b "Alice Austen House Museum". Historic House Trust. Archived from the original on 2008-02-16. Retrieved 2008-08-05. 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.
  8. ^ "School Programs K-12 | Alice Austen House". Aliceausten.org. Retrieved 2012-12-24.
  9. ^ Alice Austen House Museum and Park, Liber Deeds C/186 and C/188 dated May 1, 1701, and May 5, 1701, respectively.
  10. ^ Families of Ancient New Haven. The American Genealogist, 1926. Volume 4, pages 957-8.
  11. ^ "Visit Your Favorite Museum For Free on 9/24/16". Smithsonian. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  12. ^ "Past Exhibitions | Alice Austen House". aliceausten.org. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  13. ^ "Alice Austen House is raising funds for its educational programs with an art auction". Popular Photography. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  14. ^ "Rediscovering Alice Austen: A New Woman for a Modern World". American Photo. Archived from the original on 17 August 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  15. ^ Cromwell Childe (1895). "Haunted Houses". The American Magazine. New York: Frank Leslie's Publishing House.