Lott's Woods, Hiawatha Road and a 12 Foot Square Boundary Marker



Lott's Woods

John A. Lott, Descendant of Dutch Settlers: A Mover-and-Shaker of 19th Century Flatbush

1868 Map Shows Lott's Woods ("J.A. Lott") Which Also Extended Further West 
Beyond Heavy Diagonal Line on Left -- the Coney Island Rail Road (Now Coney Island Avenue)
Last year I wrote about Oak Crest, the name given to the area immediately south of Avenue H, which was developed more than five years before West Midwood. I pooh-poohed the notion once advanced by our esteemed West Midwood Community Association President, Linda Howell, that Avenue H might have originally been called "Hiawatha Avenue."  I based this on the absence of such a name in City records or property sales or press accounts. In addition, the Germania realty company which published maps of the area never used such a label. 


Although I still maintain that Avenue H was never officially called anything else, I must now admit that I have found a map of our leafy glen, published in 1908, which does contain the name "Hiawatha Road" for the stretch of "H" between Coney Island Ave and the Brighton line. It was labeled such by the map-maker George Bromley and is barely distinguishable in the image below.  You can find the original map online here  (it is plate 21 in the Atlas). 
"Hiawatha Road" Appears in Parentheses to the Left of "Avenue H" in the Right Lower Quadrant, To The Left of the Gray Line (Representing the Brighton RR) Running North to South For The Length of This 1908 Map.
Same 1908 Map As Above, Enlarged, With "Hiawatha Road" Circled in Red

I found the map in the course of further research on Oak Crest, which consisted of 732 lots stretching from Coney Island Avenue to 17th Street, from Avenue H south to Avenue J.  Although it was part of the much larger Lott farm, Oak Crest was referred to as "Lott's Woods" at the time it was purchased by the Wood-Harmon realty company for development in 1897.

1908 Realty Map: "South Midwood" Top Left and "Oak Crest"--South of Ave H--Top Right.
It appears that "Lott's Woods" was the name given to that part of the Lott farm which stretched from Ocean Avenue west to Coney Island Avenue, including not only Oak Crest but also what became West Midwood, Midwood Park and Fiske Terrace. It was never farmland, but always an undisturbed woodland frequented by hunters, per press clips dating to the 1880's, some of which described the widespread indiscriminate shooting of birds there. 
 

NY Times and Brooklyn Eagle Press Clips from The 1880s
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And then there was this remarkable news story from 1894 in which a surveyor argued that the town of Gravesend could not be annexed by the City of Brooklyn, which had just gobbled up Flatbush, because Gravesend only touched Brooklyn "at a point in Lott's Woods" and the State law governing a county's annexations required that the property to be added must "adjoin" the county:   

                  "...a point has neither length, breadth or thickness 
                  and that as Brooklyn [Flatbush] is not bounded by
                  Gravesend in any way, it cannot be said to adjoin it."

This argument was not successful.  But that "point" at which Gravesend touched Flatbush was the exact same point where the old town lines of New Utrecht, Flatlands, Gravesend and Flatbush all came together.
Red Circle (L) Indicates Boundary of Four Towns (Overlay of Original Dutch-Indian "Purchases" on a 19th Century Map)

This 1842 Map Shows What Eventually Became East 17th St and Foster Ave at the Tip of the Triangle of Dotted Lines Enclosing "Gravesend" at Center Bottom

What really caught my interest in this story was the reference to a boundary marker placed at that point: "A stone, twelve feet square, is set up at the junction as a mark."  Today, the Midwood Park stanchions at the corner of East 17th Street and Foster Avenue mark the same spot.  

Red Dot On This 1890 Atlas Map Shows Intersection of Foster Ave and E 17th St - Where The Town Lines of Flatbush, Flatlands, Gravesend and New Utrecht All Met at a Point

Same 1890 Map As Above, Enlarged with Town Borders Depicted By My Clumsily Drawn Heavy Red Lines

Stanchion at E. 17th St and Foster Ave
The surveyor who advanced the "point" argument and who referenced the boundary stone there was Charles Voorhies. Voorhies was the same civil engineer who would later build the sea wall at Manhattan Beach -- to which I devoted considerable ink in a 2016 blog posting -- leading me to wonder whether there were only two degrees of separation back in old Brooklyn. 


But more importantly, whatever became of that 12-foot square stone? The Lott's Woods were leveled by Henry Meyer's Germania company, but alas and alack, the stone was not referenced in any of Meyer's papers which I perused at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

There are some stones to be found on the mall at the intersection of East 17th Street and Foster Avenue, one of which appears to have some engraved letters. Could this be a remnant of the huge marker? Hmmm. Maybe. Maybe not.

The stone with some engraved letters
Stanchion Top, Stones Bottom
Stones on the Mall


But as T.B. Ackerson wrote in his 1907 Fiske Terrace brochure, when he developed East 17th Street further south, just past Glenwood Road, his construction crews swept the leveled trees of Lott's Woods into trenches they dug at the rear of the lot line. 

Ackerson Work Crew On East 17th, Summer 1905 (Fiske Terrace Brochure)


So perhaps there is a large stone buried in someone's back yard along East 17th Street. Anyone wanna invest in a metal detector or ground penetrating radar?


17th Century Update:

In October 2007, the oldest surviving deed for Brooklyn property was auctioned in Manhattan for $156,000. Dated June 16, 1636, it read:

We, director and council of New Netherland (Gerritsen Wolfert Van Kouwenhoven and Andries Hudde), residing on the island of Manhattan at Fort Amsterdam, herewith testify and declare, that today, date underwritten, before us personally appeared Tenkirau, Ketaun, Ararikan, Awackouw, Warinckehinck, Wappittawackenis, Ehettin, as owners; Penhawis, Kakappeteno being present as chiefs of the district, have transferred, ceded, surrendered and conveyed as lawful, true and free possession, as they therewith transfer, cede, surrender and convey ...the westernmost of the flats called Keskateuw belonging to them on the island...

The land described in the deed which the Lenape tribe called "Kestateuw" -- meaning meadow -- contained 3,600 acres of arable land.  It extended from Paerdegat Creek northwest to present day Foster Avenue, west to the Gravesend Village line which is now East 17th Street, and then south to present day Bay Avenue near Avenue M, and southeast to Gerritsen Creek. 



Approximate Area of the 1636 Deal in Red

Through intermarriage among the Dutch of southern Brooklyn, the northwestern part of this land, as well as more acreage west of East 17th Street to Coney Island Avenue came to be owned by John A. Lott prior to the Civil War.

John, the son of a Flatlands farmer, Abraham Lott, was born in 1806. By the time of his death in 1878, he had become one of 19th-century Brooklyn's most celebrated citizens. John spent most of his time in courtrooms as an attorney and later as First Judge of the Kings County Court of Common Pleas, a member of the New York State Assembly, Senator from the first district, Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, Associate Justice of the New York State Court of Appeals, and Chief Justice of the Commission of Appeals.  In addition Lott was responsible for the creation of the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper in 1841 (his law partners founded it to support his candidacy for the senate). When he died, his fortune passed to his sons Jerome and Jeremiah who sold off the family's farm and woods from 1897 to 1899. By that time, the Germania company had converted the adjoining Vanderveer farmlands into a new suburb and Victorian Flatbush was beginning to take shape. 


And Finally...
While researching matters off the beaten path I sometimes stumble across writers who are a joy to read.  A case in point is a 1998 essay written by another New Yorker looking back at his boyhood in southern Brooklyn.  "The Lost Creek" by Thomas J. Campanella is a marvelous study about how eight blocks of Gerritsen Creek (north of Avenue U), which at one time an old neighbor claimed ran behind his house, were covered over and developed.  It reminded me of my Paerdegat Lane adventure.  Campanella went on to become a Fulbright Fellow, a pilot, an urban historian, and an editor at Wired magazine, grabbing a PhD from MIT along the way.

"The Lost Creek"



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