NYWC Day Preview: Lefferts Historic House

Cecilia Galarraga is a new NY Writers Coalition workshop leader.  She has just started leading the Imani House workshop at PS 282. As part of NYWC Day on May 18th, she will be leading a workshop at Lefferts Historic House in Prospect Park. Cecilia reported on the house’s own history and what it offers as a writing workshop.

New York City is a place rich in history and in story. We can go about our daily lives without thinking about it, with it invisible to us. But the structures around us in this city have been witness to  that past: the subway stations, the streets, the very same buildings. If walls could talk, they would have much to say about the events that happened in and around them, and about the changes over time in their environment.

Lefferts Historic House is special in that, while it does no speaking of its own, it tells its own story. As a historic house and museum today, its past lies exposed and out in the open. Stepping into the yard to see the garden, porch, and plants as they would have been hundreds of years ago allows us visitors to witness that past.  Lefferts Historic House was built in 1777 in what was then the farming community of Flatbush. The world in which it was built, and the Brooklyn in which it was built, was vastly different. The house itself belonged to the Lefferts family, who came to America as Dutch immigrants several generations before the house was built. But the house also played a role in the lives of other people in Brooklyn. The enslaved Africans, owned by the Lefferts family, also lived in the house, but they would have experienced a very different kind of life there. For the Native Americans living in Brooklyn at the time, the Lenape, the house would represent something else altogether. With the arrival of the Lefferts family and other immigrants, Brooklyn would be transformed from woodlands into the modern, urban space we know it as today.

Lefferts Historic House is a place where the history, cultures, and conflicts of early America are made apparent to us. Various communities used the land differently, with sometime contradictory goals or intentions. Cultural values and those people’s own histories informed these decisions. Today, in its current role as a historic house and museum, it serves as a site of memory, to mark the complicated and lasting legacies of the communities that lived in Brooklyn just immediately after the country’s founding.

As a writing workshop site, Lefferts Historic House offers writers a unique opportunity to be physically surrounded by markers and landmarks of Brooklyn and American history. Perhaps workshop participants might like to take advantage of the site to write specifically about the house, its inhabitants, or its place within the greater context of American history. Or perhaps participants might just like to sit and write alongside the plant beds on what will hopefully be a beautiful spring day.

Join the Lefferts Historic House writing workshop on May 18 from 1:00-2:30 PM. Space will be limited to 15 participants and is available on a first-come, first-served basis on the day of the workshop.