Historic Alice Austen House to become a national LGBT history site

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Alice Austen Museum in Staten Island, NY
Alice Austen Museum in Staten Island, NY

There will be a celebration at the Alice Austen House at 2 Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island, NY for the announcement on June 20, 2017 of the designation of Alice Austen House as a national site of LGBT history.

The designation marks an important milestone for this historic house in bringing forth the LGBT story represented there. Alice Austen House is a nationally landmarked museum devoted to the trailblazing American street photographer Alice Austen (1866-1952). Austen was in a relationship with Gertrude Tate for more than fifty years; nearly 30 of those years were lived together at the Austen family home that serves as the museum.

Alice Austen Museum in Staten Island, NY
Alice Austen Museum in Staten Island, NY

As part of an initiative of the National Park Service launched in 2014, the Alice Austen House’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places has been amended to include LGBT history as an area of significance.

The updated amendment was written by Andrew S. Dolkart, Columbia University Professor of Historic Preservation, through the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project and a grant from the New York State Historic Preservation Office made possible by the National Park Service.

The museum is the 14th site nationally to be designated under this initiative out of more than 92,000 places on the National Register. It is the fourth site in New York City and the first site in New York State devoted to a woman to receive such a designation.

During the event, photographer, and activist, Joan E. Biren will speak. Biren is an award-winning documentary photographer and filmmaker, and has been chronicling the lives of LGBT individuals for more than 30 years. She will also present an artist talk the evening of June 20 at the Alice Austen House, including a slide show outlining the historic nature of Alice Austen and lesbian photographers’ work, as well as chronicling her own photography.

About Alice Austen

Alice Austen (1866 – 1952) captured a changing New York City in more than 7000 photographs taken mostly around the turn of the twentieth century. Austen documented her life on Staten Island and went onto the streets of Manhattan to photograph the activities of immigrants and the working class. She was versatile and forged her own path without much regard for acceptable Victorian behavior for women. Austen was a master tennis player, an early advocate for women riding bicycles, founder of the Staten Island Garden Club, and is said to be the first woman on Staten Island to own a car. For more than fifty years, Austen was in a relationship with Gertrude Tate, nearly thirty of those years lived together at the Austen home.