A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Why did you take on this project? What can be learned from a little farmhouse in Brooklyn?
Alyssa Loorya: I grew up in the neighborhood of the Lott House and remember passing it as a child. Driving by, I would wonder why there was a farmhouse in the middle of the block, and why it faced the wrong way; the house doesn't look out on the street like the others. I didn't believe my parents when they first told me that the area had once been farmland. It was hard to imagine a time when there had been only the Lott House and fields. For two years, I'd been dreaming of excavating the site.
Chris Ricciardi: What archaeologist in his or her right mind would not want to dig this site? I looked at the place (after bushwhacking through the jungle that once surrounded the house) and said, "My God, this place is incredible." As a life-long resident of the area I used to bicycle past this house on my way to Marine Park and Rockaway Beach. This place always struck me as being cool. Within the almost 300 years that have passed since the construction of the house, look at the various major social, economic and political changes that have occurred both in New York City and outside of it, from the Revolutionary War to the abolition of slavery. This site is a microcosm of that story. It carries local importance as well, as one of just 14 standing homes in all of Brooklyn dating to before 1820 and the only one to retain its original orientation and foundation. Today, home to almost 3.5 million of New York City's 7.5 million citizens, Brooklyn is the most crowded borough. An environment like this is the greatest threat to antiquities. It is critical to excavate before it is too late.
Arthur Bankoff: I was curious about the way people lived in Brooklyn over the past 300 years. Our histories of Brooklyn tend to romanticize the lives of the original Dutch and English settlers and skip over the lives of the poorer people--the Africans who were brought here, the women, and the children. The earlier nineteenth century is also a bit of a blank archaeologically--we get all excited by the original colonists, then the English takeover, the revolution, and then...nothing. How did life change for the immigrants after the revolution? What were their connections with their relatives who stayed behind in Europe, or those who moved to other parts of the New World?
I have a strong conviction that the yokels in Brooklyn were really more globally connected than we imagine. Investigating this little farmhouse may help answer these questions.
Alyssa Loorya: The house reflects a version of the past that is often neglected. The site has the potential to provide an uninterrupted record of the last 300 years, peering through a window at one Dutch family. Particularly fascinating to me is the transformation of the area from rural to urban. The Lott House was built as a farmhouse in the colonial town of Flatlands, now Marine Park.
Chris Ricciardi: Named because of its predominant geographical feature--being flat.
Alyssa Loorya: The farm was active through the early twentieth century; the Lotts had about 200 acres. Today, the property is three-quarters of an acre, surrounded on all sides by single-family row houses occupying 20-by 100-foot plots. Surely Johannes Lott never imaged such a thing when, in 1720, he built the one-room farmhouse his grandson Hendrick would incorporate into his larger house in 1800. As their life-style disappeared they watched the evolution of Brooklyn today and the creation of a neighborhood. We have to wonder how that affected them and their way of life.