In Search of the Original Harley Davidson Shed
by Randy Wilson | Originally written: October 2008
It just seems like yesterday I was at the 100th Anniversary Harley Davidson wingding in Milwaukee and now five years have past. I rode with a group of seven Harleys from Central Indiana. We got lodging in Janesville, WI, and motored back and forth for the various activities. I rode one of my present Harley’s which is a 2003 Road King, (FLHRI). At the time of the 100th Anniversary Celebration I had my bike for one year already. Although it was my third Road King, I was proud of it and thought it was appropriate that I rode an Anniversary model to the centennial H-D Anniversary. As this sport goes, I got rained on before I got out of town!
1903 Original Harley-Davidson Shed
Weeks before heading to Milwaukee for all of this I had already established an agenda in my mind for when I got there. I wanted to see the old H D factories on Juneau Street first. Then I wanted to find out where the original 1903 H-D 10 by 14 foot shed was located, place my Road King in that exact spot, and snap a photo. Legend has it that the father of the three founding Davidson brothers was a carpenter and made this shed for the young enthusiast to tinker in and develop their motorcycle.
From what I had read, the Juneau Plant was not too far from where the Davidson family had resided. In fact, I have seen photos of the original shed after it had been moved closer to the factory. However, in a book pertaining to H-D history that was written in 1972 … the original little shed close to the factory was “accidentally” torn down. Very near the old Juneau Factory is a nice reproduction of that original shed. You can also find an excellent full-size replica of the old Shed in the service department of Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson. It houses their dyno tuner.
Full Size Replica of Original H-D Shed at Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson
I broke off from the group I was with and went directly to the old factory. After I got to the factory, I asked some of the folks working in and around the factory just exactly where the original shed was? 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 map and made my way downtown to the city’s main public library. Upon arriving at the library, I noticed a nice collection of old Harley Davidson photos of the factories and motorcycles. In addition, many books on Harley Davidson were on a special display intended to harmonize with the 100th anniversary festivities.
After glancing over this display, I retired 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 for finding the original location of the old shed, and they pointed me to all the resource material available, invited me to help myself, and if I needed any further assistance, to let them know (they were very professional).
From doing research in a different city in the past, I figured I could come up with the answer I desired. Some of the details from the neighborhood history where the Davidson family had lived indicated that it had been developed a total of three times... twice as a residential area and most recently as commercial properties.
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 Harley Davidson history because they hadn’t a clue where the original shed had been. They 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 place my Road King 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 sat 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 wrought iron fence around it, adorned with landscaping, and of course, completely covered with black asphalt.
I could have ridden my bike into the Miller parking lot and taken the photo that I wanted, but I decided not to. Night had fallen, and I didn’t think the photo would turn out too well. Still this was the highlight of my trip in 2003. A trip to Milwaukee is a great experience. There is a treasure trove of motorcycle history in that city, and I’m going back someday!
Going Back to Milwaukee June 2011
In June of 2011 three pals of mine and myself rode our Harley’s to Milwaukee. Our agenda was to visit the official Harley-Davidson Museum. Also see the old factory and I wanted to show my pals where the original 1903 Harley-Davidson shop was. A friend of mine who lives in the Milwaukee area also joined us on his Road Glide.
Here are a few images of this return trip to Milwaukee. I am featuring the site of where the original H-D shop was.
This is the back yard of the Davidson home at 37th St. and Highland Blvd.
This image is in the Harley-Davidson Museum proper.
We made our way to the intersection of 37th and Highland. Presently the whole city block is the parking lot for the miller brewery. We went on Saturday so the lot was empty and that made it easy for taking photos. Also we rode by and took some photos of the old HD factory on Juneau.
Present Corner of 37th Street and Highland Blvd. Milwaukee WI.
The original 1903 H-D Shed was located just inside that fenced area inside the Miller Brewery Parking Lot.
My Road King and I located exactly where the original 1903 H-D Shed was located.
At the old Harley-Davidson Factory entrance on Juneau Ave.
Make sure your gas tank is full and your stomach is empty, so you can ride on out to Cheeseburger in Paradise Bike Night on the south side of Indianapolis every Tuesday night, sponsored by Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson for the last six years. This rain or shine event takes place from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. so come early, stay late, and have a blast.
If you need an excuse to get out of the house on a nice night, this is the perfect one. Meet up with your friends and make new ones here. Enjoy activities like games with prizes, cornhole and surprises each week.
With your help, we crown a People's Choice “Best Bike of the Night” champion every week. To enter, all you have to do is make a donation to the Officer David S. Moore Foundation on-site after you park your bike in the Bike Show area.
And be sure to mark your calendars now for CIP Bike Night’s Overall Grand Prize Event on Tuesday, August 19th. One lucky winner will ride away with a $600 Cheeseburger in Paradise prize package, along with an Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson gift card prize pack.
Here’s another bonus for checking out CIP Bike Nights. When you wear your Indianapolis Southside Harley Davidson branded shirt, you can enter to win a $25 ISSHD gift card. We announce the gift card winner right before the “Best Bike of the Night” winner is named.
Don’t have an ISSHD shirt? We’ll make sure you do. Just grab a voucher at any CIP Bike Night to schedule and complete a test ride on a new 2014 Harley motorcycle at Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson, and we’ll give you a FREE ISSHD Bar & Shield t-shirt. What have you got to lose?!
Next Tuesday night will be here before you know it. So clean up your bike, grab your ISSHD shirt, and ride on over to 4670 Southport Crossing Drive for Bike Nights at Cheeseburger in Paradise, sponsored by Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson. We’ll see you there!
My mind wandered back to 2003, embracing memories of a dedicated biker from Texas: the Lone Star State.
I was with a group of about eight Harleys that went to the 100th Anniversary Wing Ding in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (2003). While motoring back to Central Indiana, we stopped near Rockford, Illinois for some gas. It had been sprinkling on and off, but the rain had let up when we stopped.
On the other side of my gas pump was a fairly new Harley-Davidson Electraglide Ultra Classic, truly the flagship of the motor company. I noticed it had a Texas license plate. The owner/rider had gone into the gas station. I filled my machine with gas, and as I was putting back the pump nozzle, I noticed a stranger walking toward me. He was a short man of slight build, walking very slowly in a pretty upright posture, and without a limp. He walked straight to the Ultra Classic with the Texas plate.
His Ultra looked just like this one:
My first thought was, “MY GOODNESS THIS OLD-TIMER RODE ALL THE WAY FROM TEXAS TO MILWAUKEE!” YIKES!
I couldn't help but approach this sojourning, biker enthusiast from Texas. In a nutshell he told me that most of the folks he had ridden with had gone on to that great "poker ride in the sky." However, he was not going to miss the 100th anniversary gala, so he just came on his own. This he lamented with a smile and a little twinkle in his eye.
After I noticed his age and how slowly he walked from the gas station back to his machine, I could not help but be concerned about his welfare. Hence, I inquired, "Sir, are you going to be OK on your trip back to Texas?"
He smiled and replied with much confidence and a Texas drawl, "Oh sure, I'll do just fine ... I've been riding Harleys for 70 years."
I dare say that this determined man had to be in his late 80s or early 90s and was all of 5'6" if that, and 130 lbs. or less. I bade him farewell as he rode off the lot with steady precision. Then I prayed that the Good Lord would keep His hand of safety on the old-timer as he motored home to Texas.
After I got home I did the math, and if this old Texan had been riding 70 years and started out on a new Harley, it may have looked something like this 1933?
Golly, I wonder if that old-timer rode up to Milwaukee for the 105th Harley-Davidson Anniversary in 2008? I hope I am blessed with good health and can enjoy riding my Harley for many more years.
Randall K. (Randy) Wilson
Need some extra motivation to get through some of your Mondays? How about meeting up with some friends and other Harley riders on Monday, August 18th from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. for Late Night at Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson?
Through September, we’re hosting Late Night on the third Monday of each month, at our dealership in Indy. We’re keeping our doors open extra late to help you break up that Monday monotony, while giving you a short break from the start of the work week. During each Late Night at Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson, we feature a special promo that’s revealed in-store only to those who are here. So the only way to take advantage of these un-advertised and exclusive promos is to show up.
You’ll probably be hungry after a long Monday at work. Don’t worry we’ll have a food vender at all of our Late Night events, so you can grab some grub while hanging out with friends and shopping for new Harley-Davidson gear in the store.
Mondays may not be the most fun day of the week, but thanks to Late Night at Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson, there’s one thing to look forward to. We’ll see you here for our next Late Night on Monday, August 18th at 6:00 p.m.
At Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson, we’ve been in business for a long time. Decades, in fact. We know Indianapolis, and we know its riders. We also know that we wouldn’t be here today without you, our customers. At Indianapolis Southside H-D, we’re proud to call all of you Indianapolis Harley fans our friends and family, and we think we’ve got some of the most loyal and diehard customers in the country. So let us show our thanks and support to you.
Ride on down to Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson on Saturday, June 14 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for our Customer Appreciation Day. This annual open house event is always a big hit with Harley fans, and it’s a great way to spend the day with family, friends, and fellow Harley riders. Enjoy free food and drinks starting at 11:30, and listen to live music by Marlin James Band until 3:00. While you’re here, take advantage of exclusive discounts on Harley-Davidson licensed products available at Indianapolis Southside H-D. This is the perfect time to shop for last minute Father’s Day gifts for dad.
Southside’s Customer Appreciation Day is also an awesome place to catch up with fellow Indianapolis Harley riders. Tell your friends to join you on Saturday, or meet new folks and plan your next run right here. We have a full list of local events available inside.
Warm weather, cool bikes, and plenty of free entertainment … what more could you ask for? Make sure to mark your calendar for Saturday, June 14, and be a part of Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson’s annual Customer Appreciation Day. We love our customers and can’t thank you enough for your support, and we sure hope to see you there!
You love your dad, right? So why dishonor him on Father’s day with golf tees or a silly necktie? He probably has enough of both, and doesn’t want more of either. This is his day, so make it a Father's Day to remember.
With less than two weeks to go until the big day, you might not have time to ride around Indianapolis looking for things to buy. Thankfully, the perfect Father’s Day gift can be found at one place: Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson. While we can’t think of a better present to give pops than a brand new Harley, we understand a motorcycle might not be in your budget for the big guy. That’s why Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson also stocks all the awesome parts, accessories, and other cool Harley-Davidson products your dad is sure to love.
Let’s highlight a few of the gift ideas you’ll find in stock today at Indiana’s oldest and best-known Harley-Davidson Dealer, Indianapolis Southside Harley:
Harley-Davidson Tour-Pak Luggage & Saddlebag Interior Light Kit
Is your dad a traveling man? Before he takes his Indianapolis Harley out on another road trip, equip him with a Tour-Pak illumination kit that turns night into day when he opens up his luggage carrier or saddlebags. These super-bright LED light pods mount right inside the bags, and mean no more fumbling for gear when it gets dark outside. Each battery-operated pod features a 5-minute auto shutoff timer to conserve power when he needs it the most.
Harley Bike Wash Kit
Long rides leave dad’s Harley looking dirty. Cleaning up is never a chore with the Harley Bike Wash Kit. It’s packed with everything he needs to keep his motorcycle looking like the day he bought it. The Harley Bike Wash Kit includes:
- Sunwash Bike Soap
- Bug Remover
- Wash Mitt
- Bug Eater Sponge
- Synthetic Drying Chamois
- Microfiber Detailing Cloth
Harley-Davidson Helmet Hanger
Motorcycle helmets can be expensive. They’re also as bulky to store as dad’s favorite bowling ball. Protect his helmet and get it out of the way with the Harley-Davidson Helmet Hanger. This ingenious storage hook comes in two shapes, and both work with any type or size of helmet. Hang the S-hook from a closet rod, or mount the J-hook to a wall. The hooks get your dad’s helmet off the ground, which allows air to circulate inside, keeping liners fresh and dry.
For Father's Day deals going on in your favorite local Indy Harley store, check out our Motorclothes Weekly Flash Special. But hurry, these deals don't last long!
Not sure which one of Southside’s many Indianapolis Harley-Davidson accessories to choose for dad? No sweat! Call or visit us and talk to a sales associate for friendly, expert advice. You can always opt for a Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson gift card and let dad buy whatever the heck he wants!
No matter which gift you decide, a genuine Harley-Davidson product from Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson is the perfect way to give your dad the Father’s Day he deserves.
You've probably had a few Harley Davidson moments.
You know the ones; they stay with you forever.
Here's one of mine.
Growing up in the inner city of eastside Indianapolis, my folks would daily dispatch me to run errands for them. In 1961 when I was nine, Dad sent me to the drug store very late one afternoon. Near dusk as I was cutting through an adjacent neighborhood heading to the drug store, I notice a small crowd had gathered at the intersection of N. Dorman St. and E. Vermont St. (very near the former Pepsi-Cola Bottling Plant). Bear in mind this was not a large intersection. It was located in a working class neighborhood of small homes.
Randy circa 1961 Corner of N. Dorman & Vermont St. circa 2013 (currently a commercial setting)
A young African American gent wearing the traditional Marlon Brando, “Wild One “ style motorcycle riding cap of that era, was riding solo on a beautiful blue FLH. From his motorcycle a personal trick riding show was being put on for the neighbors. His Harley would have had a Panhead engine for sure, perhaps a Duo-Glide model, since this was before the Electra-glide (1965) came out. This cycle was loaded to the max with chrome. It also had one of those big spring mounted white leather "Buddy" seats adorned with white fringe. In addition, the cycle was fitted with highly embellished black leather saddlebags of which the lids had white fringe as well. The rear of this machine was nicely loaded up with bullet lights...awesome bullet lights.
These two images taken at the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee remind me of the motorcycle I saw that night.
Neighborhood folks on the sidewalk were mesmerized with the tricks and stunts this rider was doing on his cycle. He would zip back and forth standing on the seat. However, what really caught my attention was... now picture this... while the cycle was moving, this gent would dismount from his seat and place his left foot on the RIGHT footboard. Then he would be riding in a squatting position hanging onto the right side of the cycle like a sidecar with his head about the same height as his arms. At that point he would extend his right leg straight out in the direction of the front wheel. He would balance the cycle while moving and meander around the intersection with graceful agility and confidence, to a perfect level of poise. Honestly, it was a show!
After this exhibition, he would jump back onto the seat while the cycle was still moving. Then he dismounted again putting his right foot on the LEFT footboard and repeating the same maneuvers. Have any of you ever seen this type of stunt/trick riding done on a big, full-size HOG? Some people must surely possess a God-given uncanny sense of balance.
For the life of me I can't fathom someone being able to perform such stupendous feats of balance on a large moving motorcycle. I saw this with my own eyes and remember it just like it was yesterday. That display of masterful, motorcycle riding magic has never dimmed from my memory.
A few days later I went back to that intersection and inquired of the neighbors if that gent lived in the area. I was anxious to see this trick riding show again. However, I was told that the “trick rider” lived on the west side of town. I would return several more times in the future, but never saw him perform his trick riding skills again, to my deepest disappointment.
This experience was another one of those Harley Davidson moments I will never forgot.
For me it was experiences like this that served as a catalyst allowing me to dream of someday owning my own Harley-Davidson Motorcycle. My dream came true, when I picked up my first brand new motorcycle at Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson Sales & Service (1997). What a blessing it has been.
We have invited a guest blogger to share some of his stories with us. In this first post Randy will be telling you a little about himself.
It was eighteen years ago that I began my business-relationship with Indianapolis Southside Harley Davidson Sales and Service (SSHD), and my life has never been happier.
This beginning was in 1994 at the old shop on South Meridian Street. Like many folks I had owned a motorcycle when I was a young buck. Job demands, family responsibilities, and an industrial accident led me to sell that motorcycle in 1979. Fast forward 15 years to 1994, I wanted to get back into riding.
Working as a skilled tradesman in manufacturing, I was very interesting in what was going on at the Harley-Davidson Motor Co. Even though I did not own a cycle I enjoyed reading publications about the motorcycle manufacturing industry - particularly about new product development and rider reviews of new motorcycles. However, even better than that was talking to the folks that owned them and rode them. One person in particular was my co-worker friend Allan Smith aka “Smitty”, a long time Harley-Davidson owner and enthusiast. Smitty became my mentor as I eased back into cycle ownership and riding.
By 1994 the Evolution V-2 engine was a tried and true component of the beautiful new motorcycles that the Motor Company produced. A book could be written about the many accolades and praises the rugged Evolution V2 engine was receiving. Isolation engine mounting and the ribbed belt drive was also “icing on the cake” in the bigger picture of these major improvements. I was convinced, hands down, that my next machine would be a Harley-Davidson, brand new from the factory.
Evolution V-2 Engine
In order for this agenda to come to fruition I first had to decide which model I wanted. Golly how can you order a cycle if you don’t know what model you want? Smitty had advised me to “do my homework” and make sure I pick out the model that I would really like. In that it would be an expensive extra and I wanted to be happy I followed every word of Smitty’s advice, (I have never regretted this for a second).
Now I was on a mission! I went to SSHD got a new sales catalog and an accessories catalog and buried my nose in this. Once in a while I came up for air to get Smitty’s take on something. In that I was very much gainfully employed at the time I could really bag any model I desired – anything from an 883 Sportster to an Electra Glide Ultra Classic. Indeed I was thankful to be a blessed man with a good paying job and good health. Also my father had instilled wise money management concepts in his rendered personal business classes.
Initially I was leaning toward the Heritage Softail Classic. Its leather bags and nostalgic details put me to mind of the old Panheads that I remembered as a lad. As a lad I loved the sound and all the accessories that many of these bikes had. Even an occasional foxtail attached to a machine would add that extra touch of creativity by the owner/rider. I shared with Smitty my interest in the Heritage Softail Classic. Smitty boasted that they were nice bikes, and you could have a lot of fun riding one. Then he asks me what my riding agenda was and I told him my agenda was “all phases of riding, even long trips sometimes.”
Smitty reminded me that he had always rode “Dressers” (big FLH type bikes) for over 40 years. Smitty pointed me into the direction of the Touring Frame Group and presented his overview of why he loved and preferred them. At that time there were 5 models in the touring frame group in the catalog. The models with the tour-packs and the fairings did not appeal to me that much. However, to me the Road King really stood out!
I had seen just a few of these around a couple shops which people were riding. Then I saw this image in a Harley-Davidson catalog and boy was I smitten.
Catalog Image of a 1995 Road King FLHRI
Yes it was a Road King image with some catalog accessories and boy did it spin my beanie. A very learned scholar had advise me that the Motor Company was trying to capture the look of about a 1965 Electra Glide with that of a Road King. My mind was clear; it would be a Road King for me! I went to SSHD with undue delay in October of 1994, placed my order for a 1997 FLHRI in Violet Pearl and took delivery in March of 1997 (long waits for new Harley’s back then was commonplace).
1997 Roadking FLHRI (Violet Pearl)
- Randall K. (Randy) Wilson