A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Walk us through the site.
Arthur Bankoff: The house is on East 36th Street in Marine Park, a neighborhood of well-kept single-family brick houses, mostly built in the 1930s and into the 1940s. It is not your idea of a place for an archaeological site; if you are thinking of the Acropolis, forget it. The Lott House itself is set back from the street, behind a white picket fence, and occupies far more acreage than the houses that surround it. Historic maps of the area show that it was flatter than a table, gently tilted toward the south (into the ocean), and drained by small streams which ran into Jamaica Bay. One of these, Gerritsen Creek, ran right behind (west of) the Lott House and about a block away. The land was fertile farmland to the north and east of the house, with marshy meadows and swamps lying to the south and west. The house itself faces south, and once overlooked over a vista of meadow to the Bay (now it stares at the sides of neighboring houses. We have early twentieth-century photos of the house and its outbuildings--barns, stables, chicken coops, and more--no longer standing.)
Chris Ricciardi: Flatlands was set up as a farming community in the mid-seventeenth century with a small, predominantly Dutch population and large plantations that cultivated wheat, corn, and vegetables, herded, and produced various dairy products. The community was a separate town in Kings County, modern-day Brooklyn, until the last quarter of the nineteenth century. All of the wards and towns of Kings County incorporated with Brooklyn soon after. Then, in 1898, the five counties--Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Richmond (modern-day Staten Island), and Kings (modern-day Brooklyn)--incorporated to become the City of New York, an act current Brooklyn Borough president Howard Golden has called the worst thing that ever happened to Brooklyn.
Today, almost three-quarters of an acre surrounds the Lott House. Now, that may not seem like a lot, but think of it this way: we're in the middle of the largest urban jungle in the world, and not only that, but in one of the tightest packed areas within that urban sprawl. To have this much property untouched by modern development is almost unheard of. Let's face it, this is like excavating a large ten+ acre site anywhere else in the world!