Life and times of Paul Harris
His bonny lassie
Harris met Jean Thomson, Scottish-born daughter of John and Ann Younson Thomson, during an outdoor excursion of what would later become the Prairie Club.
One beautiful March Saturday in 1910 I joined my fellow Prairians on an Elgin and Aurora electric train bound west. I was a bachelor and quite open-minded on the matrimonial subject. That is to say, I had never closed my mind and heart to the possibilities of conjugal bliss … Here is where she came in, blythe, bonny Jean.
Jean Harris ca. 1926-28
After a brief courtship, they wedded on 2 July 1910 in Chicago. In 1912, they purchased a two-year-old house on Longwood Drive in Morgan Park, which, at the time, was a suburb of Chicago. The nearby rail lines made it possible for businessmen like Harris to live in the south suburbs and commute to their offices in the city.
The Harrises named their house Comely Bank after the street in Edinburgh where Jean had lived as a child. They entertained friends from Chicago and around the world, and hosted meetings and reunions of the Rotary Club of Chicago. Weather permitting, many gatherings took place outside, in what they referred to as their “Garden of Friendship” or “Friendship Garden.”
The couple never had children, and Jean often joined Harris during his travels to Rotary clubs worldwide. After Harris died, Jean briefly continued to live at Comely Bank. She later sold the house and, in 1955, returned to her native Edinburgh, where she died in 1963.
The Paul and Jean Harris Home Foundation has purchased the house and has plans to restore it. Find out how you can help.
Paul and Jean Harris on a 1927 trip to Veracruz, Mexico.