By Helena Wimpole

The Rotary Heritage and History International Fellowship commenced in 1988 at the Rotary International Convention in Philadelphia, USA. The main objective of this Fellowship is to advocate and promote the collection of Rotary heritage and history, including physical artefacts and records.

The RHHIF, as it is known, is keen to keep alive the earliest memories of the mutual friendships created by Paul Harris, who practiced law in Chicago, and with three close friends established Rotary in 1905. Today, the Rotary Club of Chicago is known as Rotary/One.

The Rotary International Headquarters at Evanston houses a variety of Rotary memorabilia, including a replica of Paul Harris’ Chicago office and the famous Room 711 in which the first Rotary club meeting took place. A group of dedicated Rotarians had relocated the furniture and contents of the room to Evanston from the Chicago Unity Building before it was demolished. Rotary’s headquarters has a life-size statue of Paul Harris, hands outstretched in a greeting gesture to visitors. This statue was given to Rotary International by two generations of Japanese artists and Rotarians. The founder of Rotary in Japan actually gave the statue’s head to Paul Harris in 1935.

In 2005, the year of Rotary’s centenary celebration, the RHHIF were able to secure the title of Comely Bank, the former home of Rotary’s founder. Following renovations, the aim is to possibly use this building as a Rotary presidential library and museum, available for tours and other appropriate uses.    

If you happen to be in Chicago, a half-day visit by car to Racine, Wisconson, can take you past the home where Paul Harris was born in 1868. He died in 1947 and is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, near Blue Island, Chicago. The Paul Harris Memorial Committee, an affiliate member of the RHHIF, has erected a Presidential Memorial Walkway honouring all Presidents of Rotary International. The Paul Harris Memorial Committee, an Affiliate member of the Rotary Heritage and History Fellowship, has erected a Presidential Memorial Walkway, honouring all presidents of Rotary International. It is under the care of the Rotary Club of Blue Islands and can be visited by contacting the club.

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