Motorcycle Types Cruiser Harley-Davidson "First Factory" | Juneau Avenue

Harley-Davidson “First Factory” | Juneau Avenue

H-D Factory History

After William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson started development of single cylinder engines and bicycle frames, they began to use the shed originally constructed by Arthur’s father, William C. Davidson. William was a cabinetmaker for the Milwaukee Road Railway shops and commonly used the 10×15-foot woodshed as his personal shop. However, by 1903, Arthur and William took the shed over as their new and first motorcycle factory. At some point, this takeover must have been agreed upon because someone informally painted on the door "Harley-Davidson Motor Co." The factory stood on the Davidson lot that is now the site of the Miller Brewing Co. headquarters on the corner of 38th Street and Highland Avenue in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Over the years that followed, the original shed was added upon to accommodate more equipment and workers. The new, little motorcycle company was going places. In 1906, operations were moved to a second wood-construction building on what is now the current Juneau Avenue site. But it was quickly apparent that a much more substantial facility was needed.

The main wedge-shaped building at Juneau Avenue was constructed in stages between 1910 and 1913. The impact it had on production was noticeable, with production of 3,168 motorcycles in 1910 rising sharply to 12,904 units during 1913. A much later addition was built in 1966 on the side facing the railroad tracks to the north. The main Juneau Avenue building was used at least partially for motorcycle and parts production as recently as 1973 when motorcycle assembly operations moved to York.

Construction on the companion building — known as the "old P&A building," "the warehouse" and other names — began in 1913 with the two story structure that today houses the Harleywood studios. Additions to the building were developed from 1918 to 1926 and housed various machining operations and later, lightweight and vintage motorcycle storage. The section that now houses H-D University offices and the Harleywood edit suite was built much later in 1957.

The building was even leased to a discount department store chain called Millway from 1966 to about 1969. After that time, the entire structure was used for parts and accessories distribution until the construction of the Franklin Distribution Center in 1997. Today, the "warehouse" is home to the Juneau Conference Center, Harley-Davidson University classes and shops, the Archives, the Red Brick CafŽ, Employee Store and new fitness center.

Whether or not the founders of Harley- Davidson envisioned the incredible transformation of the intersection of 38th and Juneau Avenue when they built their first motorcycles, what finally resulted was a site that now has a very special meaning for employees and customers alike.

Photographs courtesy of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company Archives. 


Ron Lieback
Ron Lieback
One of the few moto journalists based on the East Coast, Ron Lieback joined the motorcycle industry as a freelancer in 2007, and is currently Online Editor at Ultimate Motorcycling. He is also the author of "365 to Vision: Modern Writer's Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time).

Avon Tyres + Blood Bikes = Motorcycles Saving Lives

We’ve all heard of blood banks, but this is the first time we have heard of blood bikes. Leicestershire & Rutland Blood Bikes is...

2021 Moto Guzzi V7 Stone 100th Anniversary First Look

Back in December, we gave you a first look at the new 2021 Moto Guzzi V7 lineup. The big news was an increase in...

2022 Triumph Bonneville Bobber First Look (11 Fast Facts)

The 2022 Triumph Bonneville Bobber enjoys a wide range of updates that include functional and aesthetic. The changes are, in part, to meet Euro...

2021 MV Agusta Dragster RR SCS RC First Look (9 Fast Facts)

The 2021 MV Agusta Dragster RR SCS RC is the new flagship of the urban-brawling Dragster lineup. The RC stands for Reparto Corse, and...

2022 Triumph Bonneville T100 First Look (9 Fast Facts)

The Triumph Bonneville T100 gets a more powerful and higher-revving motor for 2022,  along with a lighter chassis and upgraded suspension as the British...

2022 Triumph Street Twin First Look (7 Fast Facts)

The best-selling Triumph Street Twin is back with motor changes to meet Euro 5 standards, upgraded styling, and a classy new variant. Let’s take...