House of histories: Lecture series explores secret past of Marine Park

Back in time: The Hendrick I. Lott House in Marine Park will host a series of lectures about Brooklyn’s little-known historic places, starting on April 15.
Brooklyn Paper
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They’ve got a Lott of stories to tell!

A new monthly lecture series at a nearly 300-year-old farmhouse in Marine Park will highlight little-known historic marvels throughout Brooklyn’s southern neighborhoods. The three-part “Lawn Lecture Series,” happening on the grass outside the Hendrick I. Lott House, will start on April 15 with a discussion of its often-overlooked host site, which was built in 1720, said the organizer of the event.

“It will put a little context into this farmhouse that’s still standing in the middle of Marine Park,” said Alyssa Loorya, vice-president of Friends of the Lott House. “This area was one of the first to be settled in what became Brooklyn, and probably the least studied.”

That first lecture, from Michelle Young and Augustin Pasquet, the authors of “Secret Brooklyn” will discuss the Lott House’s role in the Underground Railroad, as well as exploring the depths of Dead Horse Bay, and probing the origin of Mau Mau Island between Mill and Gerritsen creeks, which Robert Moses had built out of trash in the early 20th century.

Loorya, an urban archaeologist from Marine Park, is excited to discuss the remnants of the neighborhood’s rural past during her talk on May 6, including the remains of an old bread mill in Gerritsen Creek that was destroyed by a fire in the 1930s, and can only be seen when the water recedes.

“At low tide you can see all these stones and remnants of a wooden structure,” said Loorya. “It’s all from the old mill.”

Two of the lectures will touch on the Golden Gate Fancy Fruits and Vegetables market on Flatbush Avenue, which opened in 1939 during Marine Park’s transition from farmland to a suburban residential community. The market, owned by 93-year-old John Cortese, has not changed since the 1930s, according to his daughter.

“When you walk into the store it’s like walking into 1939. Nothing has changed,” said Louise McCarthy. “The pressed tin ceiling, wooden floors, and old stands are all there.”

The June 7 talk will focus on historic businesses, including Marine Park Hardware and the factories on Barren Island, which is now Floyd Bennet Field..

The historic preservation group behind the talks hopes that they will continue beyond June. Friends of the Lott House also hopes to establish an oral history program, which would record stories about the past from Marine Park natives. The project is especially important as Marine Park continues to develop — at times away from its original character, said Loorya.

“Neighborho­ods grow and change, but history belongs to everyone,” said Loorya. “There’s definitely an interest here in local history.”

“Secret Brooklyn: An Unusual Guide” at the Hendrick I. Lott House (1940 E. 36th St., between Fillmore Avenue and Avenue S in Marine Park, (718) 375–2681, April 15 at 2 pm. Free.

“Where It All Began: Marine Park’s Rural Past.” May 6 at 2 pm. Free.

“Working in Brooklyn: Early 20th Century Industry.” June 7 at 6 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
Updated 5:46 pm, July 9, 2018
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