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Lott House Bulletin Board "Brooklyn's Eighteenth-Century Lott House"

During the excavations, visitors to the InteractiveDig bumped brains with the excavators and joined fellow cyber-diggers in discussing all matters Lott. Most discussion concerned the mystery objects, but we've included some of the other Q&As below.


At Pennsbury Manor in New Hope, PA, one of the stuctures is an old stone "summer kitchen." This was kept separate from the main house, and was used as a kitchen during the summer months, to keep the house that much cooler. The food was cooked in the summer kitchen, then brought inside to be reheated in the main kitchen. Maybe the Lotts did the same. Was there an indoor kitchen dating to the same period at the stone one? Or maybe the Lotts only had the summer one, to cut down on the heat in the summer.

BCARC: Our thinking is the same as yours. This was used as the cooking house (as well as possibly a servants quarters). There was no kitchen in the house until the late ninteenth century and nor should there have been. After all, having open "fires" in a wood frame house can lead to burning it down.

In my opinion, the Lotts did not keep slaves as a matter of (religious) principle. These people were quite self-sufficient and proud of family and home. I think the Lotts may have had 2-3 live-in servants, but not have kept a large staff on premises. I think the Lotts would have had as many by-the-day help as needed.--Lois Taylor

BCARC: It's interesting to note that several of you have posted with regard to slavery and the Lott's religous upbringing, since many of the Dutch-American famers in Brooklyn owned slaves. However, we have not checked to see how many of them freed their slaves prior to 1825-27 as well so many of them may have. As of now, the Lotts seem to be very different from their neighbors with regard to this.

Many of the Early NY Wills of the Lott Family--beginning in 1652 with Pieter Lott (Loth, Lot, Lodt)--mention their slaves. Many of the slaves were kept with the wife after the death of the husband. There were also many of them who were listed as free persons that were given the opportunity to either remain with the family or to leave. In 1751 Capt John Lott was a slave census taker in Brooklyn. By 1790, most of the Lotts had freed their slaves, even the more weathy lines of the family.--Peggie Lott Longwell

BCARC: The issue of the Lott family and their relations with African (or Native American) slaves is very difficult. We wish we had family papers that talked about this institution. All we can tell is that Hendrick freed his slaves almost 20 years before New York City abolished slavery.

Is it possible to, even with extreme mesures, to damage an artifact with a trowel? And, I've read that it is possible to contaminate an artifact by your own DNA, by sweating, breathing on the artifact, or even by touching it with your bare hands. Is this possible?

BCARC: Yes, we believe that it is possible to contaminate bones or other remains used for DNA sampling with your own DNA. As in any laboratory procedure, DNA analysis by a lab must first protect against this contamination by thorough cleaning and decontamination procedures (often by taking the sample by drilling under the surface or actually removing the surface which is the part most likely to be contaminated). It is unlikely that a clean trowel will cause any contamination that cannot be dealt with in this way by the laboratory techniques.


The Lott family in general had slaves in the early days of the colony. I believe the last slave owned by any Northern branch of the family was given his freedom in 1800+/- a couple of years. Since Abraham Lott was the Treasurer of the Colony of NY in 1761, he is mentioned frequently in The Colonial History of New York as were other members of the family. The more influential the family, the more slaves they had. Johannes Lott had the greatest number at one census of I think 12-14. Just a bit of family history for background.--Peggie Lott Longwell

BCARC: Peggy is correct with regard to the issue of enslaved Africans on site. It is interesting that the Lott family freed all of their slaves just after the turn of the 19th Century, more than 20 years BEFORE New York State abolished slavery.

I have read that the shell rich soil of New York wharfs in the late 1700s and early 1800s was often used to fill in old livery stables, construction, and road work. Was the shell layer organized as the other finding? Also, is the Lott house positioned in an area close to the wharf or river?

BCARC: Yes, at the Lott House shells were used as paving and pathways...but they may have been used for more than that. There are tens of thousands of shells and all of them are not just in the formation of a path. The house itself is located about 3 blocks away from the water (to the south) and 2 blocks away from the water (to the east).


When you go into a site do you generally all know about exisiting photos?

BCARC: As with any historical archaeological project, one tries to view as many historic photos as possible prior to excavation work. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. In the case of the Lott House it seemed like each month new photos would appear that helped refine the project. One never knows what a photograph might reveal. It's a shame that they're only 2-D. We've had photographs reveal things that we have not been able to locate archaeologically or historically on maps...but those are the breaks.

Did the slaves share a privy with the Lotts or did they have their own? I ask because I was wondering if you would be able to compare their fecal matter to that of the Lotts. I am wondering how their diet and health compared to that of the Lotts.

BCARC: That's the big question...on sites in the north did enslaved persons/servants share things such as privies? Without having the "full" property left (i.e. the 200+ acres of this particular site), it is almost impossible to tell. Yet, it would appear based on excavations within NYC that separate privies were not in use...or perhaps we just haven't found them yet. Our feeling is that owners and "others" on site used the same privy.

You're idea to check out issues of diet is an interesting one. Was the diet different if enslaved persons/servants were living (and presumably eating) in the same household as their owner/employer? it is hard to tell without written documentary sources. And written sources must be taken with a grain of salt. That is an issue we'd like to know more about as well.

What happened in 1989 to last inhabitants? Who still owns the property and why arent they participating with interest? How does a home become abandoned?

BCARC: The Estate of Ella Lott-Suydam still ownes the house. The Lott family has owned the property/house since 1720 making this the longest continual ownership by one family in NYC history.

As to why people, and not just in the case of the Estate of Ella Lott-Suydam, walk away from historic homes, we can't really answer that. It could be for thousands of reasons. It is a shame when it happens, and that's why it is so vital to support historic preservation. We are all responsible for saving the past (ok, off the soap-box now)!

How old exactly is the Lott house? How many generations have lived there?

BCARC: The Lott House was constructed in two phases. The eastern wing and the lean-to were constructed some time around the 1720s. The central and western wings were constructed around 1800. Ten generations of Lotts have owned this house. It is the longest continually owne house by a single family in New York City history...going on 280 years!

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