The Sad Story Of New York’s Forgotten Motorcycle Graveyard…
Here’s a tragic story that caught our eye: it’s the tale of 71 Gooding Street in the City of Lockport, Niagara County in New York, where motorcycle enthusiast David Cuff managed to discover the holy grail of motorcycle barn finds. We’re not talking about a nice vintage motorcycle tucked away in an old garage…we’re talking about three floors of vintage motorcycles left to rot and decay. But don’t worry, this story has a (kind of) happy ending…
After viewing an interesting set of photos on Flickr, David Cuff decided to swap his motorcycle helmet for a Sherlock Holmes style deerstalker cap and magnifying glass, and set off on a strange mission. The pictures that David viewed depicted a graveyard of vintage motorcycles languishing in various states of decay in an abandoned warehouse. After a few more looks at the depressing images, he decided to hit the forums, and trawled through pages upon pages and comments upon comments of local legends and word of mouth rumors. Upon learning the address, David and a few friends got together and took a road trip up country in search of a bargain or two.
The local legend (which has been verified as fact) went as follows: the “Motorcycle Graveyard of Lockport” was once the headquarters of Kohls Cycle Sales, a promising motorcycle shop that specialized in spares and parts. In 1997, however, Kohls went out of business, and the property and inventory were sold to man by Frank Murell. Frank continued trading under the name of “Kohl’s Cycle Salvage” until the building was condemned by the local authorities, thanks to a backlog of unpaid property taxes.
After nine hours of traveling, David and his friends began staking out the property, and managed to get a closer look. The address was correct. Through a gap in the door, David and his friends were able to spy row upon row of rusting machinery, and good stuff too. The stock seemed to be more 60s and early 70s models, rather than the uglier and less collectible early 80s stuff. With such amazing treasures tucked away, the group decided to investigate further, and went inside…
“The door to the building that had the motorcycles was open a few inches and I could see a motorcycle leaning against the wall… The basement was full of old rusty bikes that nearly rusted away from the moisture in the air…There was a set up stairs that looked like they were just days from crumbling. I lightly walked upstairs and opened the door and that’s where my jaw dropped. The room was full of motorcycles. There were holes on the main floor with motorcycles falling into the basement and there were motorcycles on the third floor falling onto the main floor. Half of the main floor was concrete and very stable so we wondered around and tried to process what we were seeing while trying to be quiet and be aware what was around us,” David told reporters from thevintagenews.com.
Hoping to rescue at least one of these battered machines, David then got in touch with the building’s owner, Frank Murell. Together they embarked on a lengthy effort to gain insurance to properly enter the building. Eventually, and after a lot of unnecessary red tape nonsense, the city finally agreed and gave the guys a deadline to remove everything that they wanted from inside. David and his friends brought their trailer up, and filled it with every salvageable frame, tank and engine they could find.
“We were able to save some bikes and parts. It was also nice to see the memories come back to Frank. He has a great memory and told us details from back when the business was booming including such as [that time] he scrapped 600 or so motorcycles years ago. I shed a tear hearing that. These weren’t ugly late 1970s or 1980s bikes. These were 1960s and early 1970s bikes.”
After grabbing all that they could, and four journeys back and forth later, David and his friends managed to get the best items that they could. There was still plenty left to salvage, but when you factor things like storage and the overall logistics into the scene, David did all that he could. In July of 2013, a fire ripped through the rest of the building; the structure and the rest of its contents were lost.
“I’m afraid there will never be another scrap yard like this one,” David told thevintagenews.com. “These days it’s much different. Motorcycles are much more expensive and not just tossed aside. With things like ebay and craigslist there are just too many avenues to sell bikes and parts. These finds are what we dream of as kids. We all hear the rumors but assume they don’t exist or don’t make the effort to explore the possibility or to track down the facts. This is one time where the outcome made it all worth it.”
We first saw this story on thevintagenews.com, and you should check it out for the full quotes and pictures. It was a real barn find, and probably one of the last of its kind. We’re just glad that in finished up with a relatively happy ending, and most of the goods were salvaged. Imagine if that fire had happened earlier…? It’s always a shame when classic models are left to rust – but at least some of these forgotten motorcycles found a good home in the end!
Photo credits go to David Cuff and Chris Seaward, and thanks to thevintagenews.com for posting such an awesome story!