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Field Notes 2000 "Brooklyn's Eighteenth-Century Lott House"
June 18, 2000

Summer 2000 Excavation: Week Two...Go Away Rain!
Week two has been a bit rough on the field crew. It has rained almost every night this week, and the ground has been incredibly wet. It's been difficult to dig and sift but the field crew has been great about it.


The foundation stones of the lean-to (Courtesy Brooklyn College)

Team 1 finished work in N33 E29.5. They excavated about 1.5 meters below ground and reached the bottom of the foundation wall on the eastern (East 36th Street) side of the lean-to. The foundation to the lean-to has turned into a real puzzle for us. If you remember back to 1999, we excavated a trench along the northern side of the lean-to. There the foundation was a few courses of mica schist, the same sort of stone we uncovered as the foundation of the stone feature in 1998. Yet, here on the eastern side, the foundation stones extended down far below that of the northern lean-to foundation wall. Why is the foundation on the eastern side of the lean-to significantly deeper that to the north? Our first thought was that there must be a crawl space underneath the lean-to. Presently there is no known space under the lean-to. It has always been assumed that it was "flat-to-the-ground." Yet, once again, our assumptions may be wrong. We did a cursory search in the lean-to for a trap door (that could lead to the crawl space) but we have not found one yet. Another possibility is that they were compensating for a slope in the landscape.

Once the trench was profiled we had the team move to a new trench along the south side of the house. Located at the connection of the 1800s foundation and the lean-to N26.5 E28.5 mirrors the location of N38E22.5. Our goal is to document the differences in the two foundations and to see if the builder's trench that was uncovered in the 1999 trench will be present in this new trench. We assumed that there would be two different foundations, as in 1999, but it appears that the stones are the same. It almost seems as if the foundation under the lean-to in this southern area was laid at the same time as the foundation of the 1800s wing. Beneath the Jersey sandstone and fieldstone foundation of the 1720s wing and 1800 extension are mica schist stones, the same as the lean-to. However, there was a disturbance to this foundation: a NYC water pipe (circa 1927) runs parallel to the foundation then goes through it just to the west of the joint between the 1800s foundation and the lean-to foundation.


One of the layers excavated in N28.5E26.5 was a cultural layer that included bone, shell, pottery among other items. (Courtesy Brooklyn College)

Team 2 finished up in N36 E28.5. In the northeast corner of the trench throughout the profile there was a dark patch that appeared to be a "pit." Since only a small portion was so far exposed, Team 2 extend this trench to a larger area that would, hopefully, fully expose this "pit." The team laid out 1 meter extensions to the north and east of the trench, creating an "L" shape to excavate and expose the pit and, hopefully, the former road surfaces that we saw in 1998. As soon as they removed the topsoil there were three distinct soils exposed.

To the extreme west was a dark soil that looks as though it may be related to the pit they found in their previous trench, a reddish brown clayey soil in the middle and an ashy/coal road surface to the east. The team will now remove each soil type separately.

This week we also opened a third trench, N44 E28.5. We opened this trench to get another look at the various road surfaces that would have been present to the north of the stone kitchen. However, we uncovered something on Friday afternoon that may have greater significance or could just be another oddity to the site. Located along the southern area of the trench we noticed a reddish sandy soil (that was surrounded by the typical brown top and sub soil). It was clear that this reddish sandy soil was intrusive to the brown soil and was removed as a separate unit. At the bottom of this reddish sandy soil was a concrete area that was semicircular.

We proceeded to uncover another half of the concrete and it seems that this concrete is a "patch" or lid of some kind. To what we are not yet sure it could be to a well or privy or septic tank?

In the coming weeks we will excavate down along the exterior edges of the concrete to see if it sits atop some other structure or just lies on a ground surface.

The funniest aspect to this story is that in the profile of the southern wall, just above the reddish sandy fill, you can clearly see the remains of our plastic tarps from 1998. We had laid down tarps prior to screening. We were sifting right on top of this feature! In the Murphy's Law of archaeology, "significant finds are usually under the back-dirt pile." It may turn out to be true this time.

Several large fieldstone rocks have also been exposed adjacent to the concrete semicircular area. We wonder if these are the remains of a small shed? It is too early to tell. However, in the 1900 Charles Ditmas photograph of the house and the stone kitchen if you look closely between between the lean-to and the stone kitchen you can just barely make out of the shape of a small shack that may be a well house. Perhaps this is it!

Hopefully no more rain!


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