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Caretaker's Journal "Brooklyn's Eighteenth-Century Lott House"
1999-2001
by Wendy Carroll

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The caretaker's garden (Courtesy Alyssa Loorya)

According to local history, the eastern portion of this historic Dutch farmhouse was built in 1720 and relocated to its present site in 1800 when Hendrick I. Lott incorporated it into a grand new home for his young wife from the city. Today only three-quarters of an acre survive of the original 200+ acre parcel. Two- story homes built in the 1920s have replaced acres of string bean, cabbage, corn, and potato fields. We have hot water and electricity, however on the cold days of January I find myself in the basement resetting the main circuit breaker quite often. The wind howls and the pipes freeze, and I imagine the days of the 1800s: gathering wood, coal in the later days, going to the well for water, to the ocean and to the creek for protein, and to the garden for greens. I often think of the workers, the owners, and their daily lives: digging, planting, keeping warm, their clothing, the sounds of music in the fields, the difficulty involved with a Manhattan visit, and the final hours of the day shared by the fire. They did see the sunrise and the sunset. We do share the colors of dusk and dawn.

As part of my role as caretaker I planted a garden for the Lott House this past summer. Many of the vegetables planted were the same as those farmed by the Lotts. We even grew corn in Brooklyn again. Our garden had fresh greens for omelets on Sunday morning, pink and red poppies, blue morning glories, fragrant white moonflowers, and ten-foot-high sunflowers. The archaeologists work to reveal the farmhouse's history. Treasures are found in the ground and in the house to help tell the story of the Lott family. There are old bottles, a child's steel leg brace, ceramic doll heads, and hand-carved garden implements. A rewarding aspect of my involvement with the farmhouse is its landmark statusand being able, as caretaker, to watch the restoration be undertaken and executed with integrity. To eventually see the hand-forged hardware restored, the original woodwork reconstructed. The craftsmanship and attention to detail will be imperative and the reconstruction has the potential to reveal the many faceted layers of the farmhouse's history.

Presently the puzzle pieces are still being investigated, and there are many more questions. Why does the bathroom window frame extend beyond the ceiling? Where did the owners and workers sleep? Was there a blacksmith in residence? These and many other questions are still unanswered, and watching the unraveling of the answers intrigues me. Ultimately, the restoration will enable visitors to experience the growth and change of daily life in and about the Farmhouse, a reflection of our culture and society. As caretaker I see to tall the small day-to-day tasks that make the Lott House a home once again like maintaining the garden and shoveling the snow. Having the neighbors stop to say hello or share from the garden has also helped make the Lott House a home again. I am fortunate and proud to be part of the Lott Farmhouse. Yes, it seems that the work of endless projects still abound, but one day all will be able to visit the farmhouse.

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© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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