Alice Austen House, Staten Island, NY.

© ARK NEYMAN/Getty Images/iStock

Alice Austen House

Staten Island

The former home of maverick photographer Alice Austen (1866–1952) stands in a serene, shore-side spot, a 2.4-mile bus ride south from the ferry pier. The building (known as 'Clear Comfort') is now a house-museum devoted to the prolific photographer and her uncommon life. Austen produced 8000 photographs, documenting both upper-middle-class Staten Island life and the gritty, working-class realities of the Lower East Side. Austen was a woman in defiance of Victorian norms about women, living child-free with her lifelong lover, Gertrude.

The house is designated a New York City public park and historic landmark. Among the most interesting photographs on display are those of Austen and her friends, similarly nonconforming individuals pursuing their passions. Photographs of them drinking, dressed in fantastical costumes and playing sports are illustrations of what Austen called 'the larky life,' freedoms which counter a life locked into established gender roles.

Items collected by Austen, like Chinese stone lanterns, are arrayed among the displays, along with intriguing tokens from her life (like a recipe for lobster, the sole item on the menu when Austen and her partner ran a tea room to raise some extra cash).

If you're travelling to Staten Island by bus from Brooklyn, the house-museum is a mile north of the Verrazzano–Narrows Bridge.

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