Engelbart Lott came to New Amsterdam in 1652 with his children, Pieter (b. 1626), Engelbartsen (Bartel) (b. 1630), and Sarah (b. 1632), from Drenthe in the Netherlands. The two sons, Pieter and Bartel, are the founders of the Lott Family in North America. Little is known about their life in the Netherlands or their voyage to New Amsterdam.
In July 1653, Pieter and Bartel purchased 25 morgens of land in the Town of Midwout and established a farm. In 1685 the Lotts were granted additional lands by Lieutenant-Governor Dongan. Midwout, renamed Flatbush when the British took over the colony in 1664, served as the county seat. It was the hub for Kings County and western Long Island. The town center located at present-day Flatbush and Church Avenues featured the Dutch Reform Church and was surrounded by farmsteads and fields throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Pieter and Bartel married Gertrude Lamberts and Harmantje Barents, respectively. Their families were two of the 60 households listed in the 1698 town census. Pieter and Gertrude are the ancestors of the Lotts who would eventually settle in the Town of Flatlands and construct the Lott House. Many of their nine children moved beyond Flatbush to the more cosmopolitan town of Brooklyn or rural Queens County.
Johannes Hendrickse Lott
Pieter and Gertrude's grandson Johannes Hendrickse Lott was born in 1692. In 1714, at age 22, he married Antje Folkerson. Like many in the area, he was a farmer. On December 12, 1719, Johannes H. purchased a farm property from Coert Voorhies in the Town of Flatlands. The Voorhees family also came from Drenthe. Johannes H. paid the then considerable sum of £2100 for the property situated between (present-day) Kings Highway (to the north), Flatbush Avenue (to the east), Gerritsen's Creek (to the west), and the Atlantic Ocean (to the south). It is estimated the property totaled 175 acres.
Johannes H. and his family prospered in Flatlands. Soon after he acquired the property, he built a small two-room Dutch-Colonial house near the present-day Lott House. It is believed that this house was originally adjacent to Kimball's Road, also known as Lott's Lane (to the east of the Lott House today, and not to be confused with present-day Kimball Street). Another possibility is the house was built much closer to the present-day location, where East 36th Street is now. The property and house were well-situated, located near a tidal creek. The inlet has been known by several names since the 1600s: Strome Kill, Ryder Pond, Gerritsen's Creek, and presently, Marine Park Creek. Wolfert Gerritse established a grist mill on the western side of the creek in the 1600s.
Throughout the 18th century, Johannes continued to purchase farmland and waterfront property, including a portion of Barren Island and two additional farms, in New Lots (Flatbush) and Jamaica, Long Island. The Flatlands farm grew various grains, like wheat, which were staple crops in the area. In addition, the many creeks along the southern shore of Long Island contained numerous mills that processed the grain into flour.
Throughout his life, Johannes was active in local community affairs. He served as a member of the New York Assembly (1727-1757) and was an active member of the Kings County militia. He ultimately attained the rank of Colonel. The household consisted of Johannes, his wife Antje (Annie), their 12 children, three enslaved adults, and two enslaved children. When Johannes died in 1775, his sons inherited his real property. He left over £4500 and all his material goods to his daughters and grandchildren. Despite British inheritance laws that stated the oldest male child inherits all property, Dutch families of Kings County maintained a practice of equitable distribution. Also, per Dutch tradition, all property was jointly owned by husband and wife. If the husband died prior to his wife, all lands would become hers. Upon her death or the mutual death of both parents, the property was split equally between all remaining children. This practice ensured fairness in inheritance and accounts for the overall loss of acreage within the land holdings of the early Dutch American farmers over time.
Johannes E. Lott
Johannes E. Lott (born December 31, 1721) received the majority of the property, including the "dwelling house, barn, and tract of lands" in Flatlands, where he was already living and working with his wife, Jannetje (née Probasco), and their eight children.
The Revolutionary War
Johannes and Jannetje took ownership of the lands during a volatile period, where politics split families between support for the British crown and the Patriot cause for Independence. Jannetje Lott was a Patriot who raised funds for the cause. She is recognized as a Patriot by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. According to the family's oral history, she sank the family's pewter items in the creek so the British could not confiscate them. The British routinely confiscated pewter and other metals from local homes to melt down for bullets. Another story tells of the Lott boys sneaking into the British encampment and absconding with a fireback shield, which is still in the family.
Though Jannetje Lott was a Patriot, it seems her husband Johannes was not. Following the defeat of the Battle of Long Island in August 1776, all males in Kings County were required to sign a Declaration of Allegiance to King George III. Johannes and his four sons are listed among them. This did not mean all were loyalists. Lists were kept noting who among the residents had patriot leanings. Those who were loyalists were signaled out for raids on their property.
Johannes E. died before the end of the war. At the time of his death, he had been living at the property in New Lots. Jannetje had remained at the house in Flatlands. In his will, he left his Flatlands property equally to his four sons with the stipulation that their mother, Jannetje, continue to live in the house until her death. In 1783, one year after his death and the year the American Revolution ended, 23-year-old Hendrick petitioned the state for rights to his father's estate.
Hendrick I. Lott
Some time afterward, Hendrick and Christopher moved to Manhattan, where they worked as carpenters and merchants. The two brothers met and married the Brownjohn sisters, Mary and Elizabeth. The sisters were the daughters of Thomas Brownjohn, who, like his father William, was a prominent physician and chemist in Manhattan. In 1790 Mary and Hendrick were living in Manhattan's Collect District. At the time, it was an area for artisans, and Hendrick worked as a professional house carpenter. However, when Hendrick acquired the majority of his brothers' shares of the family farmstead in Flatlands in May 1793, they relocated there. Hendrick's brother Christopher and his wife Elizabeth also relocated to Flatlands. Toward the end of the 18th century, Flatlands was comprised mostly of farm families. Kings County was the second largest agricultural producer in the region, Queens County being the largest.
The 19th Century
At the turn of the 19th century, Hendrick began constructing a new house incorporating the 1720 house he lived in as a child. Based on the diary of Flatlands farmer John Baxter, in the summer of 1796, he and the other town residents helped Hendrick and his family raise 'several large barns on the Lott's property. Several years later, more barns were constructed on the farmstead.
Hendrick Lott and Emancipation
The Lotts were enslavers who relied on several enslaved people to work on their farm. Johannes E. Lott owned one of the more significant numbers of enslaved Africans in the Town of Flatlands, and twelve enslaved people are listed in the inventory of his estate.
Within the first ten years of the nineteenth century, Hendrick freed all the enslaved persons he had inherited except for one. Federal Census Records suggest that Hendrick hired some formerly enslaved people as house servants and farm laborers. From Johannes E. Lott's probate, we know some of their names. The men were Harry, Hecktor and Powell; the women were Mary, Hannah, Moll, and Cate. There were also children: Tyrone, Tom, Jacob, Hannah, and Poll. The 1800 census lists 4 Free persons of color in Hendrick's household and 3 free persons of color in 1810.
Hendrick and Mary settled into their new house and raised three children. Johannes H. (b. 1793), who would later inherit the property, Eliza Ann (b. 1796), and Katherine, born almost nineteen years after her siblings in 1814. Katherine married Teunis Bergen, who compiled and wrote some of the most comprehensive and accurate records of the lives of Dutch (American) farmers in southern Brooklyn.
They shared the home with several relatives. Hendrick's mother Jannetje remained at the house until shortly before her death in October 1802. His sister, also Jannetie, never married and lived there until her death in 1832. Multiple generations lived together in the Lott House into the twentieth century.
Like his father and grandfather, Hendrick continued to acquire property along the salt-marsh areas east of The Flatbush Road. The family were paid members of The Flatlands Protestant Dutch Reformed Church. Their life centered around family, the farm, and the church. Rarely would they travel outside their community except to sell their goods at the market. Unlike many of his relatives living in Flatbush who participated in civic functions, the Hendricks family's only public service involvement was as a founding member of the New York Agricultural Society in 1806.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, various grains, like wheat, rye, buckwheat, oats, corn, flax, and barley, were staple crops. Fruits and vegetables were mainly grown for family consumption or local markets. In her book A Social History of Flatbush, Gertrude Vanderbilt described picturesque fields of grain during her childhood and how everyone helped out on the farm with planting and harvesting. The Lotts also raised cows, hogs, and chickens. The farm's location near the water, and the salt hay that grew along the marshy banks, were a perfect source of fodder for grazing cows and cattle. Daily activities were split between farming, milking, collecting eggs from the hens, and cooking.
Hendrick and Mary's son, Johannes H., married Gashe Bergen in December 1817. They and their seven children, Jane Bergen, Henry De Witt, Mary, Catherine Ann, Eliza, Simon Bergen, and Jurien, lived in the Lott House with Hendrick and Mary. When Hendrick died in 1840, he left the house and property to his only son and money to his grandchildren.
Johannes H. Lott
Johannes H. received his primary education in the Flatlands school. After taking over the family farm and continued to purchase more land in the Flatlands area. Johannes H. eventually owned approximately 242 acres, including land on Barren Island, located at the seaward edge of Flatbush Road in 1836. The second half of the 19th century was a period of transformation for the family. The farm was spurred on by advances in technology and waves of immigration into the United States changed the dynamic of the workforce. Though Flatlands was still relatively remote, practices that had gone on for over a century were changing. Under Johannes' tenure, the Lott Farm prospered. The 1855 New York State agricultural census valued the farm at $17,000. In the 1865 agricultural census, it was valued at approximately $24,000, the second highest value out of 70 farms recorded in Flatlands. By the 1880s the Lotts, like many farmers in the area, began growing more fruits and vegetables to compete with the new produce market. Cabbage and potatoes were major crops.
Another change was that the entire family no longer worked on the farm on a daily basis. Instead, there was a growing reliance on hired labor as the children attended school and, in some cases, university. According to Jeremiah Lott, many of the Lott family farms hired Irish and (later) German immigrants. Census records indicate that servants and farmhands continued to reside on the property into the 20th century.
Johannes H's four daughters were all married by the mid-1860s. Following tradition, the new son-in-law moved into his father-in-law's home for a time before receiving land as part of the daughter's dowry. At the time of his death in 1874, 81 year old Johannes H. had not made a will. His wife, Gashe Bergen Lott inherited her husband's estate, and census records list her as head of the household. She ultimately divided the estate equally among their children. Their son, Henry DeWitt, born January 1821, received the house and fifteen acres. He then leased an adjacent portion of his sister's share. Henry had married 21-year-old Anna Bennett, known as Annie, in October 1863, with whom he had eleven children.
The farm layout began to change at this time. Farm fields were located to the east, behind the stone kitchen, and to the west, from the house to the creek. To the north was the barn complex and supporting buildings. The area in front of the house was formally landscaped during this period. Once popular in the early seventeenth century, formal gardens made a comeback in the late 19th century.
The Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad was a series of routes and safe houses that self-emancipated people followed as they fled to areas with Free Black communities and Canada. Coordinated through word of mouth, many stops on the "railroad" remain unknown. Oral history among the Lott family tells the story of a closet on the second floor where the Lott family hid self-emancipated people. The newspaper pasted to the wall of a closet is dated June 10, 1863. Today the Lott House is recognized by New York State as a stop on the Underground Railroad. It is also an example of changing political and cultural views between generations of the same family.
Throughout his life, Henry DeWitt maintained family traditions. He had attended Erasmus Hall, where he majored in agricultural science and chose to be a farmer like his father and grandfather before him. He was active in the Agricultural Society of New York and farmed vegetables and grain, selling to the markets in New York. Unlike his father and grandfather, Henry De Witt was active in local politics. He served as an Assessor for the Town of Flatlands, sat on the board of directors of the Protestant Dutch Reformed Church, and as a school trustee for Erasmus Hall.
Annie passed away at the young age of 40, six months after the birth of her daughter Phebe. Henry, 19 years her senior, never remarried. After his death in 1889, the farmstead passed to his son, John Bennett Lott (born September 1865). John continued to live in the house and raise a family with his wife, Phebe Voorhees, whom he married on December 29, 1892. They had four children, but only three survived infancy.
His brother, George, his sister, Jennie Maria, her husband, Andrew Suydam, and their two daughters lived in the house. Like his father, John Bennett attended Erasmus Hall and majored in agriculture. He and his brother and brother-in-law farmed the property growing produce for the markets in Wallabout and New York. John Bennett was a member of the school board, an Excise Commissioner for three years, and an active member of the Independent Political Party. He and his wife were active members of the Protestant Dutch Reformed Church until his death.
Facing a Changing Brooklyn
The last quarter of the nineteenth century ushered in many changes for the Lott family and their community. Local farmers were no longer the leading supplier of farm goods for a growing New York City. The expansion of the railway system meant that food supplies were coming in from other areas of the state and country. Like most farmers in the area, the Lott family began to downsize and sell off part of their estate. They refocused their business on produce for local markets. Plots of land continued to be sold or given away as dowry presents. By the end of the 1890s the property was truncated to approximately thirty acres and would eventually shrink to less than ten acres in the 20th century. Photographs and newspaper accounts show that even into the twentieth century, with all the changes going on throughout Brooklyn, the Lotts continued to hold on to farming as a means of livelihood. The family maintained several servants even with the farm's shrinking size. By the end of the 19 century, the Lotts were employing Irish and Italian immigrant day laborers to work the fields.
In the early 20th century, the family sold part of their land to real estate developers. Though selling property would eventually become more profitable than continuing farming, the Lott farm continued production until 1925. Andrew Suydam was interviewed by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in September 1916, discussing the importance of the local farms in feeding the city, and notes that it had been one of his best harvests. Having earned money from land sales and with the farm still prospering, the area surrounding the house was relandscaped. This renovation added new bluestone paths and a tennis court to the front yard.
All The Lott and Suydam children went to school, attending Erasmus Hall, and some on to university where it became clear that of John's children Henry D. Lott attended Cornell University majoring in Civil Engineering and Cornelia attended Packer Collegiate Institute's junior college. His son John V. opened a store on Flatbush Avenue. Jennie's daughter Anna married Charles Kluth, who worked in real estate. As a wedding gift, they constructed a large home for the newlyweds on Quentin Road (then known as Avenue Q). Their daughter Ella attended Adelphi University and would go on to teach at Erasmus Hall, where she also served as head librarian.
The Lotts in the 20th Century
Most of the farmers who sold off their land moved elsewhere. John B. Lott died in 1923, and both George and Andrew were advancing in age. The last harvest in 1925 was followed less than a year later by the city laying water lines throughout the former farm fields. Instead of moving out to Long Island or New Jersey, Jennie and Andrew kept the family home with ¾ of an acre surrounding it. John's widow Phebe and their daughter Connie bought a new house on Quentin Rd. Her sons bought new homes on Hendrickson Street. George Lott purchased a home on East 36th Street but died in 1930.
The Last Generation to Live in the House
According to Jennie Maria, John Bennett Lott's sister, the soil was in their blood, and they would always be farmers. She spoke those words of her brother George in 1925 as the last of the Lott land was about to be turned over to developers. Jennie and Andrew remained at the house for the remainder of their lives. Andrew established extensive flower gardens. Ella continued to live with her parents. She was eventually joined by Anna when she became a widow. The two often hosted Anna's grandchildren on visits. Ella never married and spent her career as the head librarian at Erasmus Hall High School. She would be the last direct descendant of Colonel Johannes H. Lott to live in the house. She died at the Lott Homestead in July 1989.
Upon Ella's death, the house became the property of the Estate of Ella Suydam. The estate consisted of her sister Anna's daughter and several grandchildren who live throughout the United States. Ella never had any children. Nor did her cousins Henry D. or Cornelia. John Bennett's son, John V., had one child, a daughter named Catherine. In 2002 the Lott House was purchased by New York City, ending 283 years of Lott tenancy and ownership.