Open House New York 2011 - Alice Austen House

Staten Island Travel Blog

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I tried to make a photo in the Alice Austen style

It is Open House New York again! I really like this yearly event! During the Open House New York weekend sites in New York City that are usually closed for the public open up, or locations that are usually open present a something extra. The program is very diverse. People can visit sites ranging from churches to waste processing plants, museums to construction sites, even boats are open to the public. At some places one has to make a reservation for a guided tour but at the majority of the sites one can just walk in.

In 2008 and 2009 I had focused on Manhattan. Last year on two Bronx sites (here and here). This year I intended to explore other boroughs.

View from Alice Austen House
Like today, Staten Island. So I chose to visit the Alice Austen House in Clifton on Staten Island.

Alice Austen (1866 - 1952) was one of the earliest female photographers in the US. As a kid she got a camera from her uncle and she just loved making photos. No digital camera, no roll films, but the old fashioned glass plates with exposure times of several minutes!

Alice grew up and lived in the Victorian cottage "Clear Comfort" a beautiful and neat little house surrounded by the sloping hills on the shore of the Verrazano Narrows, the bay between Staten Island and Brooklyn. The house dates back to the late 1600s - early 1670s, when it was built as a one-room Dutch colonial house. Later it got expanded and remodeled many times.

View from Alice Austen House on Manhattan
It is one of the oldest houses in New York State.

Alice made many pictures of normal day life scenes in Manhattan and on Staten Island. She also travelled and took her glass plates and camera with her. The Netherlands was one of her favorites. Many New York pictures can be seen in this nice digital archive.

In 1945 the great depression also hit Alice. Her stocks lost their value and Alice was forced to sell all her possessions. She was finally evicted from her precious house and tragically ended up in a city poor house. Fortunately in 1950 her photos were discovered and published, generating some revenue and creating a way to move to a private nursing home where she finally died, peacefully. She is now so famous that even a Staten Island Ferry boat has been named after her.

After lots of trouble to get to the house (delayed boats, missing the Staten Island Railroad etcetera) I made it to the still very picturesque Alice Austen Park.

Alice Austen House
Although the house had almost been demolished after decay it was fortunately saved and restored. It is still breathing the atmosphere of the Alice times. Of course, the city advanced and like the Dyckman House on Manhattan, high buildings and other houses surround the site. Despite that and all the trouble to get here, it was very nice to see another surprising hidden gem of New York.

More pictures below! Deze fake-tekst heb   ik toegevoegd om net iets meer regels te genereren zodat deze rare website toestaat dat de bijgesloten foto ook vertoond wordt. Deze fake-tekst heb ik toegevoegd om net 

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I tried to make a photo in the Ali…
I tried to make a photo in the Al…
View from Alice Austen House
View from Alice Austen House
View from Alice Austen House on Ma…
View from Alice Austen House on M…
Alice Austen House
Alice Austen House
Alice Austen House
Alice Austen House
Alice Austen House
Alice Austen House
One of the pictures taken by Alice…
One of the pictures taken by Alic…
Alice Austen House
Alice Austen House
When Alice lived here she would no…
When Alice lived here she would n…
Alice Austen House
Alice Austen House
When Alice lived here the ugly bui…
When Alice lived here the ugly bu…
From the Staten Island Ferry on my…
From the Staten Island Ferry on m…
Staten Island
photo by: chimiloca