ANAMOSA, Iowa — As a steady stream of visitors passed through the doors of the National Motorcycle Museum on its final day, Jill Parham pondered what could have been.
“A lot of people are sad that it’s closing,” Parham said Monday, Sept. 4, 2023, hours before the museum closed its doors for the final time. “If we had the crowds like we’ve had the past two months, it would have been a harder decision to close it.”
Jill Parham shares a laugh with a visitor to the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa, on Monday, Sept. 4, 2023, the final day the museum was open. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
The widow of J & P Cycles founder John Parham, she has been serving as president of the museum’s board of directors, and cited financial considerations in shuttering the museum, which was founded in 1989 and relocated to Anamosa in 2001.
Parham, whose husband died in 2017, said she will stay in Anamosa, but plans to travel more, including to Texas to see her son’s family.
Some of the Labor Day weekend visitors had never been to the museum previously.
“You don’t have to be a biker to enjoy it,” Parham said, citing toys, posters and other memorabilia her husband collected that made their way to the museum.
A 1911 Steco Aerohydroplane, with a 42-foot upper wingspan, is among items to be auctioned from the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa. The auction begins Sept. 6, 2023. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
About 6,000 pieces of that collection, including more than 300 motorcycles, will hit the auction block from Sept. 6-9, 2023.
Mecum Auctions will conduct the auction onsite, with bidding options available in-person, by phone and online for the road art and other collectibles, including the selection of motorcycles, ranging from vintage relics to modern Harley-Davidsons.
While Parham didn’t cite a particular motorcycle that might bring the highest bids, she was curious about who might bid on the museum’s 1911 Steco Aerohydroplane — with a 42-foot upper wingspan — and where the restored 1920s Shell Service Station might eventually go.
“There’s some pretty fine bikes and great signs and toys,” she said, adding that she hoped other museums might bid on some of the items. “My husband had a passion for it all.”
The museum opened in downtown Anamosa in 2001 and moved to its current location, at 102 Chamber Drive, to expand in 2010.
The National Motorcycle Museum relocated in 2001 to downtown Anamosa, shown Monday, Sept. 4, 2023, before moving to a bigger location in Anamosa in 2010. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Regular visitors such as Mark Wilson, who rode his Harley-Davidson Electra Glide from his home in Jesup, spent time in the museum on its final day, along with newcomers, including Nathan Wegner, who made the trip from Independence on his 2003 Harley-Davidson Road King.
“It’s really sad that it’s closing,” Wilson said.
Wegner said he had been trying to get a group of friends to visit the museum, but finally made the trip on his own.
“It’s just awe-inspiring,” he said, after touring the museum. “It really represents the movement and freedom of being on the road.”
Both bought souvenirs in the museum’s gift shop.
Parham said T-shirts sold out, even after the museum reordered.
On the final weekend, more than 3,000 visitors passed through the museum’s doors, including some from as far away as Utah and Arizona.
“It’s bittersweet,” Parham said, citing employees who helped prepare for the auction and friends who have been stopping by to visit. “You never know what you have till it’s gone.”
See photos from the auction of Iowa Wesleyan University and more photos from the final day of the National Motorcycle Museum, below: