Rotary members who are working to restore the former home of Rotary founder Paul Harris have set a target date of April 2019 to return the house to the way it looked in the 1940s. They then plan to open the house as a museum and meeting place for Rotary members.
Harris and his wife, Jean, lived in the Tudor-style home in southern Chicago, Illinois, USA, after purchasing it in 1912. It was there that some of the world's first Rotarians met and fostered the friendship on which Rotary was built. After Paul's death in 1947, Jean sold the home. It changed owners twice more before a group of Rotarians purchased it in 2005 with money they borrowed from the charitable foundation of the Rotary Club of Naperville, Illinois, USA.
Some structural repairs were made right away to make the home safe to visit for Rotarians who wanted to celebrate Rotary's centennial there in 2005. The group established the Paul and Jean Harris Home Foundation to further support the preservation project.
The effort has included a restoration of the home and grounds; interior construction, such as installing insulation, drywall, flooring, windows, doors, and custom trim to replicate what Paul and Jean Harris had; painting; and work to bring the home's electrical, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems in line with current building codes and fire safety standards. A three-story addition at the rear of the home is under construction. Although it is not part of the historic home, it will be available for meetings and group activities, with an elevator for accessibility, a fireplace, seating for 50, and a small kitchen.
The Paul and Jean Harris Home Foundation has also allocated funds to repay loans from Naperville Rotary Charities and Rotary International and create an endowment that will support the operating expenses of the home.
After the renovation is completed, the home can be listed with local and national historical societies, which can spread the word about Rotary and the home to a broader audience.
Since the project began, many Rotary members and friends have generously supported this vision of a lasting monument to Rotary's founder by giving to the Paul and Jean Harris Home Foundation.