Brian Breece, Brad Breece, Bernie Breece, and Julie Breece stand beside the 1912 XS Silent Gray Fellow that is one of many motorcycles on display in their Harley Davidson museum on U.S. Route 224 east of Ottawa - Putnam Sentinel
Brian Breece, Brad Breece, Bernie Breece, and Julie Breece stand beside the 1912 XS Silent Gray Fellow that is one of many motorcycles on display in their Harley Davidson museum on U.S. Route 224 east of Ottawa. (Putnam Sentinel/Nancy Kline)

OTTAWA - Spring will be here on March 20. After the snow, frigid temperatures and winds that have already occurred this winter season many people are already dreaming of sunny days and barbecues. Some are also dreaming of taking motorcycle rides in the spring air. A visit to a motorcycle museum just east of Ottawa may help area residents fight the cabin fever they are experiencing without having to take a long road trip. Located along US 224, the museum is well-marked with a sign that includes the word ‘Museum.’

“But a lot of people say they didn’t know we had a museum inside our business,” said Julie Breece from Ben Breece Harley Davidson Motorcycles. The museum is located inside the business.

The museum unofficially opened in 1996 at the front of the store formerly located in the village of Ottawa. Bernie and his father Ben Breece collecting older models of Harley Davidson motorcycles.

The first vehicle they purchased was a three-wheeler from Indiana. The father and son had purchased it with plans to restore it and use it in parade. Although the three-wheeler was never used in parades the collection of vintage motorcycles continued to grow.

“We fixed up all the motorcycles, so they are running,” said Bernie. He said they purchase one or two bikes a year. The oldest motorcycle in the museum is a 1912 belt-drive silent gray fellow that sits in the front entrance.

Other motorcycles on display in the museum include a 1942 Military Motorcycle used in WWII and a 1952 KR with only 17 produced.

Bernie said they discover vintage motorcycles in different ways. “Sometimes I might see a bike for sale on eBay,” Bernie said, “but more often a bike is in a garage somewhere and we hear about it by word of mouth.” Bernie said it takes a lot of time researching a bike once it is purchased. “I want to find out what I can about it,” he said. “It’s also takes research to find parts for the bikes.”

When the flood hit Ottawa in 2012, the Harley Davidson business and museum was hit hard. “We had 18-inches of water in the building,” Bernie said. “If I was to save those vintage bikes it was going to have to be done quickly.” He said he would have been overwhelmed but everyone who worked at the business stepped up and helped getting the bikes cleaned and running again.

The business was relocated to the current US 224 location. This new location allowed more space for their museum inside the showroom.

The collection now includes over 40 motorcycles along with other vintage Harley Davidson memorabilia including pins, plaques and advertisement prints.

Bernie said recently a group from The Meadows of Kalida came to see the collection. “They enjoyed just sharing their memories after seeing the motorcycles,” Bernie said. Many times they have visitors who make the museum a destination trip. This has included visitors from several states.

You can visit the museum during the Harley Davidson Motorcycle business hours including 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays.