Harley-Davidson’s Juneau Ave. headquarters nearing completion on November 29, 1912. Them horses look hungry to us.

Harley’s Juneau Avenue Roots

Harley-Davidson’s Juneau Ave. headquarters nearing completion on November 29, 1912. Them horses look hungry to us.
Harley-Davidson’s Juneau Ave. headquarters nearing completion on November 29, 1912. Them horses look hungry to us.

From woodshed to red-brick behemoth in ten short years

By Mitch Boehm

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

We’ve all heard the stories of how Harley-Davidson began life in 1903 in a Milwaukee woodshed on the site of what is now the headquarters of Miller Brewing Company. But with motorcycle production set to jump from around 1000 units in 1909 to nearly 30,000 by 1920, the Motor Company’s industrial digs had to change, and in a big way.

That ‘big way’ ended up being the legendary Juneau Avenue headquarters, which stands proudly today as a testament to Harley’s history and industrial fortitude over the last 117 years. Actual motorcycle production ceased at the site back in 1973, but the Juneau Ave. headquarters remains the nerve center of the company to this day.

A recently discovered cache of photographs and architectural drawings – including plans for the original Juneau Ave. facility – are part of a gotta-see exhibit called ‘Building a Milwaukee Icon’ that opened earlier this month at the Harley-Davison Museum. Since getting there might present a bit of a challenge to most of you, we wanted to share a few of the fascinating photos from the exhibit to give you a feel for what was happening on the ground 110 years ago at the corner of Juneau Ave. and 37th Street. Enjoy!

Workers fabricating fuel tanks – by hand, of course – at the Juneau factory, circa 1915.
A 10,000-gallon engine-oil tank being moved into the factory receiving yard, circa 1912.
Excavation work and a makeshift bridge for the factory addition at 37th and Juneau, circa 1912.
Excavation work and a makeshift bridge for the factory addition at 37th and Juneau, circa 1912.
Female employees assembling roller bearings prior to engine assembly, circa 1919.
Female employees assembling roller bearings prior to engine assembly, circa 1919.
Ground plans from 1910 showing sewer, gas and water lines for the Juneau Ave. complex.
Ground plans from 1910 showing sewer, gas and water lines for the Juneau Ave. complex.
First-floor and elevation plan for the addition to the main manufacturing building.
First-floor and elevation plan for the addition to the main manufacturing building.

A walk through the Harley-Davidson Museum is a walk through the history of America. With an unrivaled collection of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and memorabilia, a 20-acre, park-like campus, and a calendar full of activities, the H-D Museum is one of Milwaukee’s top tourist destinations for visitors from around the globe. A visit to the H-D Museum is an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime. Make your plans to visit the Harley-Davidson Museum at H-DMuseum.com.

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