DMH Spotlight - Diana Mara Henry and the Alice Austen House Back

In loving Memory of Peggy Buckwalter

 

See the article "Chronicler of a Vanishing America" by Alison Eckhardt Leeds in Social Register Observer Summer 1996


Diana Mara Henry first set foot at the Alice Austen House in 1970, when she was writing a feature article for the the Staten Island Advance, the NYC borough's Newhouse daily newspaper.

  

The house was in disrepair and detriorated further over the years, as DMH researched the work of the owner (1866-1952) for whom it is named, pioneering photographer E. Alice Austen. Diana Mara Henry, who had left the Advance to take up a career in photography, wanted to produce a book of famous women photographers to inspire and encourage young women to adopt the profession by offering them role models of other daring and accomplished women in the field. Upon discovering that Ann Novotny was preparing a book to be entitled Alice's World, DMH contacted her and joined The Friends of Alice Austen. The group undertook to place a marker in a ceremony at Alice Austen's gravesite and, after Ann Novotny's sad demise, to have a Staten Island ferry named in her honor. The Alice Austen House, also named Clear Comfort, was became a NYC Landmark after a lengthy report was produced with photographs of the building by Diana Mara Henry.

As Vice-President of the Friends of the Alice Austen House, under the leadership of Margaret Riggs Buckwalter, Diana Mara Henry lobbied successfully for the city to grant $1,025,000 to restore the house and open it as the first US museum dedicated to the work of a photographer. Now a National Historic Landmark, the House was inducted in 2002 into the National Trust for Historic Preservation's highly selective group of Historic Artists' Homes and Studios. A film about Alice Austen, narrated by Helen Hayes,was made in 1975 by Stuart Hersh.

 

 


In 1977, Diana Mara Henry curated the photography exhibits (above) at the New York State Women's meeting, prelude to the First National Women's Conference.One of those exhibits was a display of Alice Austen's photographs.


A child stands by with her bouquet as Stuart Hersh reads "O Captain, My Captain" at the placing of a marker on Alice Austen's formerly unmarked grave.

All photographs Copyright ©Diana Mara Henry. Reproduction by written permission of DMH. Below: Ann Novotny speaks at the newly-dedicated gravesite


Then the bouquets were placed on the grave, to the joy of Ann Novotny, left, author of Alice's World, and Marge Neikrug, owner of NYC's Neikrug Gallery, in straw hat. Photographs Copyright ©Diana Mara Henry. Reproduction by written permission of DMH.

A perpetual problem: lack of credit for photographs!


Diana Mara Henry's documentation of the condition of the house and the progress of the restoration were included in the Historic Structures Report that preceded and accompanied the saving of the house.
Her camera equipment was stolen in the process, the end of the Leicaflex era ( although she located one camera at Marty Forscher's, where the thief had brough it in for a tune up.)

 

E. [Elizabeth] Alice Austen (right) and friend in her young days, on the grounds of Clear Comfort in a photograph by Alice Austen.    Email us now!        Back to DMH Home

See video of5 a tour of the Alice Austen House by its curator and caretaker Paul Moakley, June, 2015.

See video of a tour of the Alice Austen House by its Executive Director, Janice Monger, June, 2015


E. [Elizabeth] Alice Austen (right) and friend in her young days, on the grounds of Clear Comfort in a photograph by Alice Austen.    Email us now!        Back to DMH Home
All images Diana Mara Henry. All rights reserved. Terms of Use