Group hopes to raise US$3 million to restore Rotary founder's home
For nearly 40 years, Paul and Jean Harris entertained visiting Rotarians at their home on Chicago's South Side, which they affectionately named after the street in Edinburgh, Scotland, where Jean lived as a child. Today, the house is badly in need of repairs.
The Paul and Jean Harris Home Foundation has embarked on a campaign to raise $3 million to pay off the debt and interest on the house, complete the renovations, and establish an endowment to pay for maintenance in perpetuity.
“Comely Bank is the Mount Vernon of Rotary -- it's the home of our founder, and it's too important an asset to not do something about it,” said Robert C. Knuepfer Jr., 2010-11 governor of District 6450 and president of the Harris Home Foundation.
After Paul Harris died in 1947, Jean sold Comely Bank. It remained in private hands until the Paul and Jean Harris Home Foundation bought it in 2005 with money borrowed from the charitable foundation of the Rotary Club of Naperville. The Harris Home Foundation replaced the basement floor and made a few immediate structural repairs so Rotarians could safely visit the house during Rotary's centennial year.
But since then, the restoration project has come to a standstill.
The Harris Home Foundation hopes to restore the home to the way it looked when the Harrises lived there. It plans to display historic images of Harris and provide visitors with information about Harris and his Rotary activities. Knuepfer says the house could also be used as a meeting place for local or visiting clubs and for other functions.
The Harris Home Foundation also envisions creating a Rotary history trail, with stops at the Paul Harris Home, Harris's gravesite at nearby Mount Hope cemetery, and RI world headquarters in Evanston, Illinois.