One winter day, Rotary founder Paul Harris took a walk down a well-kept street just outside Chicago. Watching children sledding down a hillside, he recalled his own boyhood in New England. At that moment, he decided that if he ever were to own a home, it would be on top of that hill on Longwood Drive.
In 1912, Harris and his wife, Jean, made that dream a reality. They named their new home Comely Bank, after the street where Jean grew up in Scotland.
Over the years, the Harrises hosted Rotary meetings and entertained visiting dignitaries, surrounded by objects they had collected on their travels throughout the world. The trees they planted in their friendship garden still grace the yard. In 1947, Harris died there; Jean sold the home not long afterward and returned to Scotland.
The property changed hands twice more before the Paul and Jean Harris Home Foundation purchased it in 2005. Through the efforts of that group, and with the help of the Rotary clubs of Chicago and Naperville, the Harris home has been saved from demolition. Now, it is up to us to protect the home for posterity, as a place for Rotarians to gather in the spirit of friendship and service.
The RI Board has agreed to loan $500,000 to the Paul and Jean Harris Home Foundation to assist with the restoration of this irreplaceable piece of Rotary history. A goal of $5 million has been set for the project, to complete the necessary renovations and to provide an endowment fund to allow the property to operate as a museum and historic site.
I am committed to the restoration of the Paul and Jean Harris Home and hope you agree that this project is worthy of your support. My wife, Jetta, and I have made a contribution to our Rotary Foundation to establish a donor advised fund to accept contributions from anyone who shares our love of Rotary history, and our desire to preserve Rotary’s past.
If you would like to join us, please go to www.rotary.org/daf and click on “How to Contribute.” Include the account name, “Paul Harris Home Preservation,” and number, 474. A gift of any size is welcome, and naming opportunities are available in the home and garden for those who are considering a larger gift.
We are excited to have the opportunity to celebrate the spirit of Paul Harris in this special way. Together, we can save his home for generations of Rotarians to come.