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Alice Austen and St. John's

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Alice Austen was one of America's most prolific photographers that pioneered photography not only in New York but all of the United States. Alice Austen House, which was also the house that she lived in, is located approximately 250 metres from St. John's. She was introduced to photography at age 10 in 1876. A second-floor closet of her home on the shore line of the New York Narrows Harbor served as her darkroom. In this home studio, which was also one of her photographic muses, she produced over 7,000 photographs of a rapidly changing New York City, making significant contributions to photographic history, documenting New York’s immigrant populations, Victorian women’s social activities, and the natural and architectural world of her travels.

Her works are not only historically important as she captured the lives of every day Staten Islanders and New Yorkers but also to St. John's, as she was a close friend of Gertrude Eccleston, daughter of The Rev. John Eccleston. Many of St. John's historical pictures are the works of Alice Austen as she photographed many parts of the rectory and the church building. Her photographs of St. John's provides an invaluable piece of the church's history. Below are just some of the pictures taken of the church, rectory and Rev. Eccleston's family. Additional works of Alice Austen could be viewed by clicking here.

We also invite everyone to visit the Alice Austen house, a historical landmark, which now serves as a museum dedicated to one of America's most prolific photographers.

St. John's Rectory and Mercer Chapel

SEPTEMBER 20, 1892

Collection of Staten Island Historic Society

Trude Eccleston's Room

OCTOBER 16, 1889

In St. John's rectory, very near the Austen home. Gertrude Eccleston was one of the daughters of Rev. John Eccleston, Episcopalian rector of St. John's Church, and she was Alice's closest friend in early years.  She married Charles Barton.  Collection of Staten Island Historic Society

Man with Two Women on Each Side (St. John's Episcopal Church Rectory)

CA. 1895

Collection of Alice Austen House

Moving Day for the Blunts

APRIL 11, 1890

Gertrude (Trude) Eccleston, with her sister Mrs. Albert Blunt and the two Blunt children.  Both ladies are daughters of the minister of St. John's episcopal church where Austen and other fashionable Staten Isladers attended services.  The house is in Rosebank, Staten Island. Collection of Staten Island Historic Society

The Eccleston Family

FEBRUARY 26, 1893. 4:05 PM.

Eccleston family in the parlor of St. John's rectory, Rosebank, Staten Island.  Stanhope on Edith's shoulder, Mrs. Eccleston, Trude, Sam, Jack, Edith, Mamie, Bertie, Stanhope, Fred Mercer. Stanley 35, 16 sec, 14 ft Collection of Staten Island Historic Society

St. John's Episcopal Church

CA. 1893

Collection of Staten Island Historic Society

Trude Eccleston's Bedroom

SEPTEMBER 20, 1892

Trude Eccelston's bedroom, St John's rectory, Rosebank Collection of Staten Island Historic Society

Trude & I

AUGUST 6, 1891. 11 PM.

In an era when women were arrested for smoking in public, 25-year-old Alice and the Episcopalian minister's daughter, Gertrude Eccleston, simulated sinfulness.  The scene is Ms. Eccleston's bedroom in the rectory.  Alice Austen wrote on the negative sleeve: "Trude & I masked, short skirts. 11 p.m., Thursday Aug. 6th 1891. Gas on, flash.  Stanley 35, Waterbury lense. 11ft." Austen has said about the photograph: "We were hard-up that day, I guess. We had no ideas about smoking then, but we thought we were smart." Eccleston, who eventually became Mrs Charles Barton, attended "Alice Austen Day" in October 1951. As she viewed the photographs, she stated, "There I am. That's me, in the petticoat there." (VS notes) Alice and Trude Eccleston in masks, corset covers and petticoats. The black stockings were routine-- flesh-colored ones didn't appear until the Twenties-- and the hair was their own. Collection of Staten Island Historic Society

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