The Fresh Pond Crematory has long loomed large over Middle Village. Situated at the top of a steep hill, the neo-Classical structure was built in 1884 and opened in 1885. At the time, cremation was not a favored method of body disposal due to religious restrictions as well as tradition. But after a sustained public relations campaign, cremation soon became more popular, particularly among German-American New Yorkers.
The Fresh Pond Crematory has been a mysterious presence in the community since it opened. Relatively few local residents have passed through its doors. It’s a huge facility that has seen renovations and additions over the years. The two older crematories in the country have since closed, making Fresh Pond the oldest active crematory in the United States.

The evening of January 17, Newtown Historical Society toured the building with JP DiTroia, whose family has owned the site for many decades. He himself has worked there since 1967. JP truly believes in the service being provided to the community. He took us through the many halls of the columbarium – the structure where urns are stored. There are several floors to the facility and the latest expansion has seen the opening of the “Niche with a View” which affords visitors with a view of the Manhattan skyline. The sunset and nighttime views from the room are fantastic. We also gathered in the chapel and looked through a window where loved ones may view the caskets being rolled into the cremator.

We heard about famous people who were cremated at the facility, such as baseball legend Lou Gehrig, and those whose cremains are resting there, such as Ring Lardner, the sportswriter who broke the story of the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. People from all walks of life and all social classes have been cremated there with many having chosen the columbarium as the final resting place of their cremains. There are over 16,000 niches storing the remains of about 40,000 people.

Two of the highlights of the tour were the Christmas tree which remained in place throughout January as well as a visit from Gina, the bereavement dog.

Tours of the facility are given monthly, and there is a request to donate $20 toward Friends of Fresh Pond, the charity that restores the stained-glass windows, many of which are of the Tiffany brand. To make a tax-deductible donation toward the restoration effort, send a check made out to “Friends of Fresh Pond” and mail to P.O. Box 790044, Middle Village, New York 11379.