Middle Village crematorium to commemorate famous people it cremated


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz
THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

The Fresh Pond Crematory's Gothic Room where the ashes of the dead are placed in niches.

Queens’ oldest crematorium takes a look back at its history this summer with an exhibit that memorializes the many celebrities that have been cremated there.

Fresh Pond Crematory plans on opening the exhibit this summer. The project is lead by the crematorium’s nonprofit corporation president Joseph Peter Troia. Since opening in 1884, the Middle Village establishment has processed celebrities like the rapper Biggie Smalls (full name Christopher George Latore Wallace) and the banker John Pierpont Morgan. Troia wants to commemorate this by establishing a series of pictures and symbolic urns for these people.

“We’re doing this to let people know that [cremation] is an option and that many people have chosen it before,” said Troia, who has been working at the crematorium since 1964 when he started as an office clerk.

With only three furnaces, the crematorium holds about 40,000 people in 16,000 niches. These niches are a crematorium’s version of a plot.

“These are not just ashes,” Troia said. “They’re human cremated remains.” And the layout of the facility reflects this belief. Most of the rooms are lined with these niches and given names like Hall of Serenity and the Gothic Room.

Some other notables that made their last corporeal stop here are John Savage, Lou Gehrig, Ringer Lardner and Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the convicted kidnapper and killer of the infant Charles Lindbergh. All of these people, and more, will be memorialized in the crematorium’s exhibit.

While most of these people don’t have their remains in the crematorium, Anton Seidl, a Hungarian composer who worked with Richard Wagner, is placed high in a huge urn in a room that smells like the Metropolitan Museum, with all its age and history.

The crematorium is located near a highly dense area of cemeteries.

“New York City can only hold so many of our dead in the ground,” he said. “We’re conserving land here.”

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