This week’s photo is from the Alice Austen House Museum, located on Staten Island, New York. The house, as you may have guessed, was the home of the now-famous photographer Alice Austen. Alice first became interested in photography when her uncle, Oswald Müller, brought home a camera in approximately 1876. Alice’s uncle Peter Townsend Austen was a chemistry professor at Rutgers University who taught her photographic processing. Peter and Oswald converted a closet on the second floor of the house into Alice’s darkroom. The earliest extant photograph by her is dated 1884. Over the next 40 years she produced around 8,000 photographs. 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 originally built between 1690 and 1750 as a one room Dutch Colonial House on the shore of New York harbor, near the Narrows. It 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. In 1970, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It was officially declared a New York City landmark in 1971. In 1975, it was purchased by NYC and opened to the public. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1993.
Locally on Staten Island, the house has a reputation for being haunted, but we really couldn’t find any more supporting evidence than the typical urban legends that seem to be passed around by the always reliable teenager. The museum does not allow official paranormal investigations, so there is no real evidence out there that the house is haunted. As with most urban legends, the ghost stories surrounding the Alice Austen house were probably started because the house is simply old, and for most people, old means spooky. But all we found when we visited was a beautiful home sitting in a beautiful park, right on the waterfront. And until investigators can get in and see for themselves, we may never know if the Alice Austen house is truly haunted.
All photos in our Photo of the Week series are taken by New York Paranormal Society team member Laura Pennace, who is a New York City wedding photographer specializing in city hall and courthouse weddings, as well as engagement and proposal shoots. You can see more of Laura’s work at Pennace Photography (www.pennacephotography.com)