Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Greetings from The Crematory

I keep discovering postcards of cemeteries in my collection - and now I find a card of a crematory.  I hope it's not an omen. This is the Gardner Earl Memorial Crematory in Troy, New York.

It turns out that this crematory was built by William Earl as a memorial to his son. That may seem a little peculiar. After all, he could have funded a school or other building with more cheerful associations as a way to memorialize his son. But there was a reason behind this choice. It seems that the son, Gardner Earl, a sickly young man, had gathered enough strength to make a trip to Italy when he was in his 30s. I'm not sure what the other highlights of his trip were, but apparently young Gardner was very impressed with cremation methods in Italy. It makes you wonder about his travel itinerary, doesn't it?

So impressed was young Gardner that after his return he drafted a document stating that upon his death he would like to be cremated. His parents had probably faced many worries and a lot of heartache taking care of their sickly son. And now this. When he died a few years later, they had to cart his body off to Buffalo, the closest place where cremation was available. This inspired Gardner's parents to build a crematory in their hometown of Troy, New York in his honor. The building was completed in 1889. It's still strange if you ask me, but at least there is an explanation of sorts.

That said, this building has some amazing details, including Tiffany windows, exotic marble, carved stone and wood,  and decorative copper details on the roof. The chapel and the reception room are simply stunning. The building was designed by Albert Fuller, and has been nominated as a national historic landmark. Oakwood cemetery, the setting for this crematory, is also known for it's beautiful gardens. A number of prominent Americans are buried here.

The back of the card has no message, not even "wish you were here." Sorry, Lisa B.


  1. I'm just amazed at your collection and they can all be nothing but good omens coming our way from you. You always pick out the best postcards with such interesting facts and stories behind them....have you put any of these into books? It seems somewhere I saw that you can put your blog into a book form. I can just imagine how good these kinds of posts would be for children to discover and learn history, in such a delightful way!

  2. I find the postcard of a crematory more disturbing than one of the cemetery, so I'm very thankful that you shared the history. How interesting, but probably not surprising that it hasn't been sent to anyone. Someone could buy the postcard as a visitor and could be impressed by the idea or the building, but then find it was a card without a recipient.

  3. I guess this card could start a new trend: "So glad you're NOT here!"

  4. I find this fascinating and I don't consider myself a ghoul. It's a beautiful building, interesting story and definitely postcard worthy.

  5. Quite a dramatic structure, and one heck of a bell tower for a crematory in a cemetery- almost cathedral worthy! I find it a bit odd that a country like Italy, with its strong Catholic base (which I believe is a proponent of burial), would have any substantial history of cremation, especially in the late 1800's... Very interesting history though.

  6. What an interesting story! Poor Gardner.

  7. I never saw a picture of a crematory before, so I pictured them in my mind as nothing more than a big furnace.



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