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Lott House Q&A "Brooklyn's Eighteenth-Century Lott House"

Who d'ya have to go through first?

Chris Ricciardi: Once I began my graduate career, Alyssa and I began to lobby Professor Bankoff and the powers that be around town for the chance to work here. The property has been screaming to be excavated, and I'm glad the study will be led by Brooklynites.

Arthur Bankoff: We were lucky on this one. We at Brooklyn College had been working on archaeological projects with the New York's Historic House Trust for more than ten years. So we were right there, salivating, when the house trust got together with the Hendrick I. Lott House Preservation Association to buy the house.

Chris Ricciardi: For now, the house and grounds of this national, state and local landmark are owned by descendants of Hendrick Lott, and controlled by the Lott House Preservation Association. The preservation association will continue to govern the day-to-day operation of the place and the stabilization and restoration efforts until the city and the family complete negotiations for a transfer of the house.

Arthur Bankoff: Everybody agreed that our excavations would help in the restoration of the house, and would provide information and artifacts for the museum that the house will eventually become. There was actually no permit process per se. I have worked in the Near East and in southeastern Europe, where one can grow old waiting for an official agreement to dig and permit. We did have to check with the Landmarks Preservation Commission (since the house is a New York City Landmark), but they decided that if we put the place back the way we found it (or better) and did not make any permanent architectural alterations, we could dig to our hearts' content. We got some funds for supplies (plastic bags to store artifacts, film to record finds in situ, and the like) from the house trust. Other money has come from the Hendrick I. Lott Preservation Association, the Marine Park Civic Association, and the Holland Society of New York; the City University of New York forked over some money for consultants and grad students from the City University and we were off. I think everyone thought we were a little nuts, since this was all being done voluntarily, for no money, as a community service and a way to get people interested in the house and its restoration.

Chris Ricciardi: During the winter months of 1997 into early 1998 we mostly played the political game of lobbying for a chance to excavate. As part of our plan during this time we drew up a project research design and presented it to both the preservation association and the house trust. Our proposal was well received. And although we did not technically need the permission of the local community for this project to begin, we felt it vital to keep the tight-knit community informed of our project and progress. So we've spoken at community board meetings, met with local leaders, and even produced weekly flyers during the dig season, which we distributed to Lott House neighbors and area merchants.

[image] Community children pitch in as their neighborhood's history emerges under their toes. (Courtesy Brooklyn College) [LARGER IMAGE]


Discussion Questions:
Is it important for a community to be involved in archaeology projects in its backyard?
How might this best be accomplished?

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