116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Wheels will stop turning at Anamosa’s National Motorcycle Museum
Nonprofit has been struggling with financial issues for several years
ANAMOSA — Dixie Meyer of Williamsburg visited the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa for the first time ever Tuesday, even though she’s spent most of her life in Iowa.
Meyer and her husband will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in November, and they decided to visit a new Iowa tourist destination each month this year to celebrate all the time they’ve lived in the state. They already had planned to visit the motorcycle museum as their January stop, but were especially glad to be there after hearing the museum will be closing permanently in September.
“You just don’t know all the little amazing things that Iowa has, that are just a wonder of ingenuity and history,” Meyer said.
The National Motorcycle Museum, which is run as a nonprofit, announced last week it will be closing after struggling with finances for the past several years.
“It was a big decision but we decided to close. Hopefully something new will go into that building and will be something great for Anamosa,” Jill Parham, chair of the museum’s board of directors, said.
The museum tentatively is scheduled to close Sept. 5. The building that houses it, at 102 Chamber Dr., Anamosa, previously was a tire warehouse for the J & P Cycles motorcycle company, which was founded by Parham and her late husband, John Parham. Before that, the building was a Walmart.
“It’s a big building, so the heat and electric are very expensive, and we just didn’t get the admissions that we needed to keep that thing going,” Parham said.
Parham said part of the reason the museum had been struggling financially is because it decided to stay open during the winters — even though the museum gets very few visitors this time of year — to provide year-round employment for museum workers.
The museum was founded in 1989 in Sturgis, S.D., and was moved to Anamosa by Parham and her husband in 2000. John Parham died in 2017. His wife said the museum had been struggling financially since before he passed away.
“After he passed, I thought, ‘I’m going to give it five years and see if it can financially do something better than what it was. And it just wasn’t,” Parham said. “We didn’t talk about it before he passed, but I know that he would support me in what I’m doing. And it wasn’t just me doing it. There’s the board of directors that runs the museum.”
According to the nonprofits’s public tax filings for 2020, annual expenses exceeded the yearly revenue by $30,181. At the end of 2020, the museum received $18,400 from the CARES Act pandemic legislation.
The museum was home to about 550 motorcycles. Some were donated and are owned by the museum, and others are on loan. Many are part of the Parhams’ personal collection, according to Parham. The owners of the lent motorcycles were contacted about the closing, and arrangements are being made to move those bikes elsewhere.
Between 30 and 40 of the motorcycles on loan already have been removed by their owners, but you’d never notice the difference because the museum still is packed with bikes and other motorcycling memorabilia, like artwork and trophies.
According to the tax filings, the bikes and other memorabilia on loan that year had a total value of nearly $13 million, and the bikes and memorabilia that were donated and owned by the museum had a total value of over $2 million.
Most of the motorcycles and memorabilia that are owned by the museum will be auctioned off to pay bills after closing, according to an announcement by the museum. A few of the bikes will be donated to other museums. Parham said she’ll also be selling some of the Parham Collection motorcycles displayed in the museum.
Parham said the details of the motorcycle auction haven’t been decided yet, but it will be done through Mecum Auctions, which has an online auctioning platform and also hosts in-person auctions around the country for cars, motorcycles and tractors.
A 1911 Steco Aerohydroplane, which was bought by the museum a few years ago using GoFundMe donations, will be sold separately from the motorcycles. Parham said there is already a potential buyer, who plans to transport the airplane to another museum.
Comments: (319) 398-8328; email@example.com