By Jon Cronin
Middle Village is known for its proximity to Manhattan and quiet suburban streets in a neighborhood enclosed on three sides by cemeteries.
It was settled in the early 19th century by families of British descent and named because it was mid-point between Williamsburg and Jamaica Turnpike, which was later renamed Metropolitan Avenue.
Like its surrounding towns, its development began with the ruling by city government to stop creating cemeteries in Manhattan. Many Manhattan churches began buying farmland in Queens. Middle Village became the first to have a Lutheran church, which also led to many Germans moving to the area.
The 1,000 victims of the General Slocum steamboat ferry fire in 1904 are buried in the All Faiths Lutheran Cemetery on Metropolitan Avenue. The ferry caught fire and sank in the Long Island Sound. The passengers were mostly German women and children from the lower east side headed to Long Island for a picnic. The disaster is still commemorated by the General Slocum Memorial Association on June 15. They hold a memorial service at Trinity Lutheran Church and lay wreaths at the commemorative monument at the All Faith’s Cemetery. Until September 11, 2001, it was the single worst disaster in the history of the city.
The cemeteries in the area made Metropolitan Avenue a popular stopping point. They created a demand for lodging, stores, flower shops and restaurants for those visiting their loved ones in the burial grounds.
Descendents of the original German settlers can still be found in the community, along with Italians, Jews, Russians, Polish, Hispanics and immigrants from the former Yugoslavia.
Along with surrounding neighborhoods, Middle Village residents are passionate about retaining the suburban quality yet sometimes lose while pushing back the force of urban sprawl. In 1938 residents founded the Juniper Park Civic Association which aids in the protection of Juniper Valley Park. The Park itself was created from 55 acres of swamp land and white cedar trees that was turned into playgrounds, athletic fields, a wading pool, and walking paths.