9. The Underground Railroad Connection in the Historic Lott House
The Hendrick I. Lott House, a house built originally in 1720 and expanded (and possibly moved some feet over) in 1800, is the historical gem of Marine Park. 200 acres of the land in this neighborhood, originally the town of Flatlands, used to belong to the Lott family and the house was the longest continuously owned home by a single family in New York City. The last resident, Ella Suydam died in 1989. The house became abandoned and within a decade, it was deteriorating from the elements. It was also a popular spot for local teenagers, who dared each other to go into the “haunted” house.
It’s one of those old houses, full of secrets rooms and curious spaces. The existence of one space, the “closet within a closet” was a staunchly kept secret within the family into the late 20th century. The Lott’s freed their slaves about two decades before the state of New York abolished slavery and it is believed that the house was later used as a stop on the Underground Railroad, helping escaped slaves reach freedom in northern United States and Canada.
Through a door behind one of the parlor rooms, turn up a winding staircase to the second floor rooms. Inside the first room on the right, there’s a closet under the gabled roof. Within it, there’s a second doorway that leads to a small crawlspace. Originally, the closet would have been filled with possessions, concealing this second doorway and the secret space. Dates on old New York newspapers that cover the inner wall of the closet are still visible. Several say 1862, printed just a few weeks before the Battle of Gettysburg.
The city purchased the home from the Lott family in 2001, saving the house from possible demolition and the land from being subdivided. It’s a New York City landmark and is currently undergoing rehabilitation to both the house and the surrounding property.