In Search of the Orginal H-D Shed

Discussion in 'General Harley Davidson Topic' started by Randall K. Wilson, Aug 30, 2008.

  1. Randall K. Wilson

    Randall K. Wilson Junior Member

    In Search of the Original H-D Shed

    It just seems like yesterday I was at the 100th Anniversary H D wingding in Milwaukee and now five years have past. I rode with a group of 7 Harleys from Central Indiana. We got lodging in Janesville WI. and motored back and forth for the various activities. I rode my present Harley which is a 2003 FLHRI. At the time of going to the 100th I had my bike already for one year. Although my third Roadking I was proud of it and thought it was kind of neat being on an Anniversary Model for the H D Anniversary proper.

    Weeks before heading to Milwaukee for all of this I had already established in my mind an agenda for when I got there. I wanted to see the old H D factories on Juneau St first. Then I wanted to find out where the original 1903 H D 10 by14 foot shed was located. Place my Roadking in the exact spot where the little shed was and snap a photo. The legend is that the father of the founding three Davidson brothers was a carpenter and made this shed for the young bucks to tinker in and develop their Motorcycle.

    From what I had read the Juneau Plant was not to far from where the Davidson Family had resided. In fact I had seen photo’s of the original shed after it had been moved up close to this factory. However in a book that was written in 1972 pertaining to H D history….The original little shed up close to the factory was “accidentally” torn down.

    Very near the old Juneau Factory is a nice reproduction of the original little shed.

    I broke off from the group I was with and went directly to the old factory. After I got to the factory I ask some of the folk working in and around the factory just exactly where was the original shed? Four different people gave me four different answers. Hence, I figured I better research this and find it out for myself. I got out my Milwaukee city map and made my way back downtown to the main public city library. Upon arriving at the Library I noticed a nice collection of old Harley Davidson photos of factories and motorcycles. In addition many books on Harley Davidson were on a special display to be in harmony with all the other 100th anniversary festivities.

    After glancing over this display I made my way to the library reference department. I wanted to study old federal census records, old city directories, and Sanborn Fire insurance Maps. I told the librarian about my agenda of finding the original location of the old shed and they pointed me to all the resource material available and invited me to help myself and if I needed any further assistance let them know. (Very professional they all were).

    From doing research in the past, but in a different city I figured I could come up with the answer I desired. Some of the details from the past were that the neighborhood where the Davidson family had lived has been developed a total of three times. Twice as a residential and once as commercial, the later being the present situation.

    I was able to determine that the Davidson home was on the corner of 37th and Highland. There had been two homes built on this lot in the past. One of the houses had faced 37th, and one of the houses had faced Highland, but nonetheless two different homes.

    Now all of this research took several hours even though I had done this sort of thing before. I did not want to leave any rock unturned.

    As I departed the Librarians advised me that I had taught them something about H D history. In that they hadn’t a clue where the original shed had been and thanked me for patronizing their library. The staff at that library are indeed an asset to the Milwaukee City Library System.

    Ok, finally I could return from whence I came to see what was on the corner of 37th and Highland. Then locate my Roadking in the spot where the shed had been in 1903 and snap my photo. From my current map it was obvious that the streets in that portion of the city were laid out the same as they had been for over 100 years. So that was a good thing.

    When I arrived at the corner of 37th and Highland where the Davidson’s had lived I found that the lot their home formerly set on is now the location of ….THE MILLER BREWERY PARKING LOT! The parking lot takes up nearly a half a city block or more. It has a contemporary metal wrought Iron fence around it, adorned with landscaping, and of course thoroughly covered with black asphalt.

    I still could have taken my bike on into the Miller parking lot and taken the photo that I wanted but decided not to. It had become night and I didn’t think the photo would turn out to well ;-)

    This was still the highlight of my trip for the 100th. I chose to avoid all the big crowds, ain't my cup of tea.
  2. Joyflyin

    Joyflyin Experienced Member Staff Member Moderator

    Man, I was reading that looking forward to seeing the photo after all that effort. :s I'd have probably done the same thing as you however. Sounds like you had a good time regardless.
  3. tsp45acp

    tsp45acp Active Member

    I think maybe I would've bought a "Miller" and raised a toast to the original spot. Thanks for sharing. Tracy
  4. Randall K. Wilson

    Randall K. Wilson Junior Member


    I guess I could have but I'm a tee-totaler...guess I could have got an O'Douls somewhere and took it back to "the spot of the old shed"......
  5. Fossil

    Fossil Active Member

    The original shop was torn down but kept on Harley factory grounds for a long time. Then in a clean up the supposed scrap lumber was thrown out. The biggest mystery happened about six or so years ago. In the old plant there is a walled in place underneath some stairs. Even the old retired workers remember asking retired workers before them why it was there and they only knew it had been bricked in long before them. In the magazins back then Harley had a hole drilled in the wall and stuck a small camera through the hole. They looked at the pictures and quietly filled the hole back in. To this day the magazines that rold about it refuse to acknowlege it or sell you that back issue. No one that works at the old factory site will talk about it. Now that is maddening. Fossil
  6. gs34

    gs34 Junior Member

    I'll bet Elvis is in there!.....and he's probably holding Al Capones treasure!!!