Article From the Winter 2003 Issue of
The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation
B. G. COSTICH & SONS
A couple of years ago, we were summoned to the Hayward Avenue facilities of B. G. Costich & Sons, Inc., a well known local moving and storage company. The firm had recently gone out of business, and the proprietor had some things he thought we might want for the museum. We’re always open to donations, but we were also interested in this closing chapter in one of Rochester’s many transportation stories, so we were quick to take Mr. Costich up on his invitation.
Arriving at the large storage warehouse, we were immediately welcomed in and found Bernie to be personable and upbeat, especially considering that he was busy with the affairs of a century-old family business in its last days. Right away we noticed framed photos from the early days of the firm decorating the walls in the neat office area. No, they certainly weren’t going to throw those old pictures out, but yes we could have copies for our archives at the museum.
Most of the transportation part of the history of B. G. Costich & Sons, Inc. was gone by the time we took our tour of the facilities. The cavernous warehouse was now almost empty where once were stored home furnishings and industrial and commercial items awaiting their next service, as well as reams of paper files held for local companies’ record retention programs. Up in the freight elevator, through the rafters from one part of the building to another, flashlights in hand, we combed through a hundred years of business. There were several old items of lifting apparatus—hooks, block and tackle, chains—but Bernie thoughtfully pointed out that he could only let us have them for cosmetic display. Actually using these antiques might be too risky.
Each item we came across seemed to have a story connected with it…a special moving job, a unique piece of machinery to carry, unusual items to be stored. As we came back down to the office, we took stock of what we had seen and decided to take several heavy-duty sawhorse-like stands, a freight dolly, and several wooden storage pieces. Almost as an afterthought, we stopped on one floor and noticed some modern looking free standing steel cradles. It seems these were part of a cable laying job that Sprint recently completed in the area. Hmmm…. …cable… wire… trolley overhead! We quickly added the cradles to our list.
NYMT reel car 03 was built by our volunteers in 2000, and
Back at the office, Bernie took a few more minutes to tell us about his family’s moving and storage business. The company was started by his grandfather, Bernard G. Costich, back in 1902. He started out with a team of horses and a hay wagon, and developed a thriving business hauling furniture. In just eight years, Costich expanded his operation to 30 horses and a number of wagons of various types, and some sleighs for winter work.
But tragedy struck in the form of a fire that destroyed vehicles and took the lives of all the horses as well. Today, Bernie recalls fondly that his grandfather’s competitors each loaned him a few horses until he recovered from this loss.
By 1920, the appeal of motor trucks, with their greater hauling capacity and freedom from the care and feeding required by horses, became too much to resist. Costich began the process of building a fleet of trucks to serve its growing and increasingly varied list of customers.
Judging by the photos the Costich family donated to us, Federal trucks were the fleet standard back in the early days. Federal Motor Truck Company had their plant in Detroit,
Another solid rubber tired X-2, number 40 looks like the big guy
of the fleet, ready for machinery moves, rigging and erecting.
Michigan, and began production in 1910. By the late 1920’s, they were offering an extensive line of vehicles from a 1-ton delivery truck to their 15-ton capacity "Big 6" tractor trailer. Like many early builders, Federal called on a variety of suppliers for components to cover this wide range of offerings, including engines from Continental, Hercules, and Waukesha. The Federal-Knight line was established in 1924 as Federal’s lowest priced line and featured trucks in the lower capacity range. They were powered by 4-cylinder Knight sleeve-valve engines (the only trucks on the market so equipped). Federal-Knights were made until 1927, but the Federal company continued in business into the 1950’s when it was folded into NAPCO Industries and operations were moved to Minneapolis.
There were four Costich sons: Francis, Louis, Charles, and Edward, and they all eventually joined in the business. Charles’ son, Bernard (our host), came into the firm in 1966. Bernie soon oversaw some big changes in the company, with the purchase of new cranes, rigging trucks, forklifts, and other equipment needed for the new demands of modern industry. As a United Van Lines agent, B. G. Costich & Sons, Inc. provided household service for out of town and international moves. The air-ride equipment also became popular for transporting copiers and computers.
As global trade grew in importance for Rochester area businesses, Costich became a customs-bonded carrier to expedite handling of imported machinery. This allowed them to avoid time-consuming U. S. Customs clearance at port ofentry and bring the shipment directly to port of destination for clearance there. Their warehouse was also customs-bonded, and 20,000 of its 80,000 square feet were under modern temperature and humidity control.
Asked if there were any favorite stories about the costich version of local transportation, Bernie mentioned two big operations he was responsible for. When the statue of the Roman god Mercury was to be placed atop the Lawyers Cooperative building in downtown Rochester, Costich got the job. Bernie directed the move, from the storage site at the Port of Rochester all the way until the long pole on the base of the statue slipped into a sleeve in the Lawyers Co-op tower.
A Costich brochure from the early 1980’s carries this
Another big Costich move brought Albert Paley’s 40-ton sculpture "Genesee Passage" from the west side of the city to its intended display site in front of the Bausch & Lomb building downtown. The Costich company had done all the moves of Paley’s famous works, including ones at Harrow East and the Strong Museum, but this was the biggest so far, with a height of 65 feet and a base diameter of 14 feet. Bernie is glad that all the careful timing, paperwork and effort of September 7, 1996 is over, including a rented expansion trailer and rented 250-ton crane, and having to let the air out of the trailer tires to clear (by about an inch!) an overpass on I-490. Thanks to Bernie’s careful professionalism, and that of his team, the sculpture is a popular artistic feature in the city.
And, thanks to Bernie’s thoughtful generosity, NYMT now has two large shelf units, one of which contains the inventory of surplus magazines for sale in our Gift Shop. We also have a Costich-labeled wooden wardrobe container, currently standing in the back bed of our 1926 International truck. These containers were used to carry armloads of clothing on hangers in household moves, as is done today with corrugated board boxes. Those heavy-duty sawhorses have found many uses, including putting our 1941 fire truck up for the winter.
These useful items, and the photos that accompany this article, are a reflection of the Costich dedication to accommodating the unique needs of their customers. B. G. Costich & Sons, Inc. is history now, but we’re glad to have these reminders of what made them a Rochester institution for nearly a century.