Saturday, October 31, 2009

Delaware Road in Wolcottsburg

Most spots noted for being spooky seem pretty tame at 10 o'clock in the morning, at least until you get out of the car. Even Delaware Road, which was known as Kupferschleeger Road in the old days.

Located in Wolcottsburg, in the northern area of Clarence, it is a mere 1.5 miles long. It's so narrow that it's difficult for 2 cars to pass in opposite directions.

It's long been rumored to be haunted:
"In the early morning hours of spring and fall driving down this old carriage road you can feel a presence of old world culture. If on the right night one can make out a man standing roadside holding a lantern, and two feet on the right or left you can see a young girl waiting with the man for something...Please do not stop, it may not be safe."
Yeah right...In order to explore a bit, one has to park at an end and walk in. The first and last half mile segments have had the trees cut pretty far back. It's that middle part you have to look out for. The trees soon surround you, reaching up in the sky and also reflected in the water on the ground. The atmosphere starts making you think that maybe there's something to those stories...

There are a few places where a path has been cut through. One area even has a clearing. The kids have found it. If it wasn't for the mud and the fact that I was illegally parked on a deserted road I might have walked back there. Really.

Some other time. Surely the ghosts don't come out until late afternoon or dusk...dusk to dawn...the haunting hours. Or maybe they're always there, hidden in the forest pools, waiting...

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Stolle Mansion

The ghostly trees reach out to one another as they stand sentinel by the driveway...

...which leads to the historic Stolle Mansion, located at 325 Summit Road in Lockport NY.

I started around the far side, circling the building.

Cameras keep watch. Are they there to monitor paranormal phenomena? Or merely to record and report any destructive deeds by the curious? Maybe both...

According to the site of WNY Paranormal Research:
"The Summit Manson of Lockport New York was built in 1834.The mansion sits on top of limestone. 1960 was the last time anyone occupied the mansion .The mansion itself is said to had been safe house for the underground railroad. So far to date there has been no evidence on file to prove the facts of the claims.The mansion was built by Francis Hitchings .The house was also home to many servants whom had their own living area within the mansion.The mansion has been in the Ruhlmann family since the late 1940's.The mansion itself is up for sale for serious buyers."
The group was giving tours of the mansion with the owners permission until the City of Lockport decided to block them.

The reason allegedly has to do with the condition of the mansion...not that it bothered any of the building inspectors previously. Apparently historic buildings can be allowed to rot for eternity as long as no one goes inside...Don't get me started...No guidelines were given either although requested.

So that leads to this sign. Oops. Surely they only meant the inside...

If you want to buy it, here's the number. Don't know if the City would allow you in to inspect it though...

Truthfully, at 10am roaming around on the outside it wasn't all that spooky, but maybe at night...Meanwhile, the trees wait for the next visitors...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Palace in Lockport

While growing up in Clarence Center going shopping in a different place usually meant traveling to Lockport. My road test was there too. I also had relatives residing thereabouts, so visiting was often in order.

My great-aunt Marguerite lived on Harrison Avenue, next door to a family with lots of kids. The Marotta's had a real bomb shelter in their back yard (a 50's thru 60's thing) and I thought that was really neat, even though I never saw inside of it.

Anyway, two daughters were about my age and they took turns going to the movies with me at the Palace Theater in downtown Lockport, which is across the street from the old US Courthouse and post office.

The adults must have been so eager to get us out of the house that they never noticed what was on the second half of the double feature. "Shaggy Dog? Have a good time!" Vivid memories include seeing Charles Bronson shot in the forehead while on a waterwheel in "4 for Texas".

A big favorite and probable source of a nightmare or two was Bette Davis playing twins in "Dead Ringer". I can still remember the plot, and it came out in 1964 when I was 10. Good movie, although I'm still leery of Great Danes, like the one that tore Peter Lawford to shreds in one memorable scene.

After the movies were over we would go next door to Jay's Drugs to use the payphone to call for a ride. Then we would hang out rather awkwardly for a spell, not having any money to shop with. I have vague recollections of wishfully looking at the soda fountain.

Now it's a nostalgia store called Olde Main Street.

More pictures and info are available at the website for the Historic Palace Theatre (source of Jay's Drugstore pix) and on Facebook, like this one:

So far I've been backtracking on my journey to Lockport last Saturday, and I still haven't gotten to the main reason I drove that way in the first place. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

View from the Stairs

The other day on the Weird Tale in Lockport (pt. 1) post, DocWu said in the comments section:
"The entrance to the raceway tours are in Upson Park and below the gravel lot you were in. A flight of wooden stairs leads down to it. But the office where you sign up for the tours I believe is in Old City Hall, on Pine Street, next to the locks."
I was there! First though, when I was in the initial parking lot I first looked towards downtown and saw off in the distance the top of an unknown-to-me building on Main Street that I had photographed earlier.

Then, as I was approaching my car, I saw the entrance to the wooden stairs across the way.

So of course I started down them and took a few pictures.

My wanderlust was starting to flag so I only went part of the way down the stairs before deciding it was time to leave. Some other time I'll be back, maybe on an actual tour of the Lockport Cave / Raceway!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Weird Tale in Lockport - Part 2

After yesterday's post I got more comments on Facebook about Walter Kohl and his motorcycle shops than anything else. This was probably because not many were familiar with the building (except for Al Gritzmacher). Now I wanted to know more.

Still not much is known about the building other than it was built to take advantage of hydropower generated by the canal raceways below. One site has it as a cider mill built in 1880. In later years it was home to a ceramics supply among other things; being one of Walter Kohl's motorcycle shops is among them.

I also didn't learn much about Walter Kohl himself either, other than he's related much more closely (still distant) to second cousins of mine than to my branch of the family. I have the details but just take my word for it. Lots of names.

Walter Kohl loved motorcycles. He had various shops over a 50 year time period. Many remember when he was located on Transit Road north of Millersport. One site states that he was also located on 12 West Main Street in the years 1969-1973 before moving to Richmond Avenue, both in Lockport. Richmond turns into Gooding eventually, where the building I wrote about yesterday is located.

When Kohl died at the age of 82 in 2002 he had amassed quite a collection of bikes. Guess where a lot of those were stored? And there were parts, lots of parts.

Quoting quite liberally from a message board dated December 2008:

"The...owner that started putting bikes in it would basically go all over the place and any company that was going out of business or whatever, he would buy all their bikes and put them in this building. He eventually died and his wife...sold it to Frank, the current owner...Frank basically did the same thing, bought bikes, stored them there, and sold them...He's super leery about who he lets go there though because the place has been collapsing for the past 20 years.

The pictures DO NOT do this place justice. Bikes are just JAM PACKED in this place - there's mostly no walking room. It's a 4 story building (3 on the end pieces you can't really see + basement), and it's in complete disrepair... There are basically these big sized areas of the floor that have collapsed taking like 20-30 bikes at a time to their deaths, crashing from the 4th floor, through to the 3rd, through to the 2nd, straight on down to the basement. In the picture of the main floor you'll see is what we called an "island" of can't get to because the whole damn thing is that close from caving in...

You can't even imagine what kind of treasures are to be had in that place. Rare, unique, foreign bikes that you can SCOUR THE UNIVERSE to find parts for...this guy has ROOMS, whole ROOMS, just full of, a lot of them very near brand new.

The place is so huge you could spend like two full days just looking at two floors...You just can't even imagine this place. It's amazing."

On another site a guy scoffed, saying that all the good stuff had been long gone before the current owner got it. Whatever. Obviously there was enough there to intrigue many.

Definitely the same building. This explains why there were bikes parts outside too. Not sure all his stated facts are right, but quite interesting.

Go to the message board to read the rest. Pictures used here are from there also. On the site clicking on a photo will take you to a whole strip of pictures. Check it out!

Is that neat or what?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Weird Tale in Lockport

Saturday as I was wandering about in Lockport I saw a sign for some caves and decided to at least go by and check it out, little knowing that they would be mentioned in Sunday's newspaper. Apparently I was moving too slow for the tailgater behind me, so I sped up a bit and soon found myself making a snap decision to turn right, and then turn right again into a gravel lot.

The sign said I was at Ceramics Plaza and Gooding Street. Ceramics Plaza does not come up on any Google search engine, but there I was. Hmm.

It's across Gooding street from an old electric company.

Anyway, I looked up a long driveway off the back of the lot and saw an old factory up ahead. Being ahead of schedule, I decided to drive up it and explore a bit. After the driveway ended I got out and walked up a path and over some railroad tracks that went over Gooding Street that had dipped down to my right.

It was an old factory or warehouse, which I found interesting enough to take a few pictures of.

Now comes the strange stuff...After I left I went to my mom's and told her about my expedition. She sat up straight and said that it sounded like the place that Harbison Brothers used to store barrels maybe 10-15 20-25 years ago (not possible it was the shorter span of time). My parents had gone there with my dad's cousin Bobby and wife. She said there was talk of selling the building to someone who was going to build a plaza (see sign above).

Mom remembered looking out a 3rd story window, where down below Walter Kohl had a motorcycle shop in the same building. She's not into motorcycles, but remembered the name because his brother* father Ernest married a Muggelberg, who is a distant cousin on the...well, you know how these conversations can get sidetracked.

There were some motorcycle seats lying next to the building too, behind an old cart.

We still weren't sure if it was the same place, but upon arriving home I did a closeup on a Google map and there was the motorcycle shop, looking like it's in Upson Park! No mention of the building itself though.

So how weird is it, that of all the places I could have explored in Lockport, I pick one with a bit of family history that I had never heard before? Eerie.

And I still don't know anything about the building. Does anyone know where I was? Well, I know where I was, but I don't. Anyone?

Just don't tell me it doesn't exist anymore...I have pictures!

* change per genealogy records.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hungarian / Austin Street / Charity Baptist Church

One tends to think of older churches as large buildings built of stone or brick, or maybe of clapboard like a hallmark greeting card. Then there are what is known as storefront churches, which are usually located in buildings that started out with some other use.

In between there are small churches, which many times served as a starter building for a congregation back in the day. Many have changed hands numerous times. Some have not retained their religious purpose. To the untrained eye, such as mine, they may appear as a mere house with stained glass windows.

However many are being born again as a new congregation takes root within its walls. Until last week I had never been inside of one of these small churches, many of which are scattered throughout the City of Buffalo. One such treasure is at 350 Austin Street near Military Road.

Many times I passed by, never taking the time to learn about the building or the people inside. I had thought it to be a church moving on to another use years ago. I was mistaken. When I went over there to take pictures I noticed it was in the process of being renovated.

Then I met Pastor Pete Wigdor, who graciously invited me inside. I had never imagined that such a beautiful church would be inside those walls!

I learned that there has been a continuous active church at this location for the past 91 years. It started out as the First Hungarian Baptist Church, as an outreach to the new immigrants. From there its name changed to the Austin Street Baptist Church to better reflect its changing congregation. Eventually that group moved to Grand Island. The church would later be known as Maranatha, which suffered dwindling numbers as the years went by. Now it is being revived both physically and spiritually as the Charity Baptist Church.

At a time when many feel the need to flock to a mega-church, I have always preferred a smaller church. This fits the description and more. Very welcoming. Services begin at 10!

More historical info can be found on the site of Houses of Worship: A Guide to Religious Architecture.

UPDATE: As I was wandering around the Buffalo Historical Society this afternoon I came across 2 artifacts from the original First Hungarian Baptist Church. Both a drum and an organ were donated at some point in time.

What a coincidence!