Alice Austen Park, Rosebank Staten Island

Posted by Anthony Licciardello on Wednesday, January 9th, 2013 at 3:23pm.

In 1975, the City of New York purchased two parcels of land in Staten Island's Rosebank neighborhood for use as a public park.  The similarity shared by the two parcels was that they both contained a house of historical significance.  The two differed, though, as the houses were unrelated and had their own special significances in 
Alice Austen Park, Rosebank SI NYStaten Island's past.  Nonetheless, the two were included in what soon became Alice Austen Park, with the addresses of the homes being 2 Hylan Boulevard and 30 Hylan Boulevard.

The home at 2 Hylan Boulevard was significant for two reasons.  The first reason was because of when the home was constructed, as well as the architectural styles used.  It was originally a one-room Dutch Colonial home constructed at the turn of the eighteenth century, making it a rare sight on Staten Island.  The home had soon evolved into an L-shaped home, before being purchased by a John Haggerty Austen in 1844.  Austen made additions of his own, transforming it into a Greek Revival-style cottage for his family.  Austen's wife named the home Clear Comfort.

The second reason this "Clear Comfort" home was so significant was because of a particular resident of the home.  Elizabeth Alice Austen, born in 1866, was the granddaughter of John Haggerty Austen.  At the age of ten, she had learned from her uncle how work a camera and how to develop photographs herself.  By the turn of the twentieth
 century, Elizabeth Alice Austen had developed over 8,000 photographs by using a closet of the house that had been converted into a darkroom.  Ms. Austen, who is often referred to as just "Alice Austen", made a name for herself due to her photography skills.

When she had become bankrupt in 1945, Ms. Austen contacted a friend from the Staten Island Historical Society so that they could collect Alice Austen Parkher photographs and take them to a safe place.  Five years later, she was forced to enter the New York City Farm Colony.  During her time away from the home, Clear Comfortfell into disrepair and was threatened to be demolished and replaced by apartment buildings.  In the next decade, funds were raised to preserve the house.  It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and designated as a New York City Landmark the following year.

Many years had passed after the property was acquired by the City of New York and still nothing had been done to 
the house. Finally, in 1984, restoration of Clear Comfort began, using only photographs taken by Ms. Austen, herself.  Today, the home operates as a museum which showcases Alice Austen's photographs.  It is open to the public between March and December, except on major holidays.  The house itself is open from noon until 5 p.m. from Thursday to Sunday, while the rest of the property is open every day until dusk.

In 1841, Henry and Anne McFarlane purchased the nearby property at the current 30 Hylan Boulevard.  Here, they had a house constructed in the Italian-Swiss Villa style.  The McFarlanes sold the home in 1846 and it went through a number of different owners until it finally came into the hands of the New York Yacht Club, who also purchased an adjacent three acres of land.  The New York Yacht Club had only owned the home for three years, but their ownership was significant because they had transformed it into their
 clubhouse.  In 1871, the clubhouse was sold to a Frederick Bredt, a prominent resident of Staten Island who owned a mansion across the street from the clubhouse.  Bredt sold the house in 1874 and it went through a few owners until the City of New York finally purchased the property along with the Alice Austen House in 1975. The McFarlane-Bredt House, as it is known, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

On the shore of Alice Austen Park is a kayak and canoe launch site.  This site is located at what is known as Buono Beach.Buono Beach was named in 1998 for Matthew Buono, a Staten Islander who was killed while serving in the Vietnam War.  If you follow the park parallel to Edgewater Street, you will come to the Buono Memorial, which consists of a fountain and a wall with five separate inscriptions.  The first inscription honors Matthew Buono, himself.  The remaining inscriptions honor and name the residents of Rosebank and Fort Wadsworth who died in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, World War One, and World War Two.

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