Rotary Timeline Milestones:
Rotary's Conception: In the summer of 1900, Paul Harris was invited to dine with a lawyer friend, who lived in Rogers Park. After dinner they took a walk, stopping along the way at several neighborhood stores and shops. At each, his friend introduced him to the proprietor. Paul was deeply impressed with the events of the evening walk. His host had evidently found a good many friends among the business men in his neighborhood. Paulís clients were business friends but they were not social friends, and he wondered if there were any reason why he could not make social friends of his business friends, at least of some of them. He conceived of a group of business men banded together socially; then he thought that there would be an especial advantage in each member had exclusive representation of his particular trade or profession. The members would be mutually helpful. He resolved to organize such a club.
Room 711: Room 711 of the Unity Building at 127 North Dearborn Street in downtown Chicago, Illinois, was the site of Rotary's first meeting on February 23, 1905. At that time, it was the office of Gustavus Loehr, a mining engineer and one of the founding members of the organization. Around 1980, the Rotary Club of Chicago, the club that originated from that gathering, set about to preserve the site. It rented the room and undertook an extensive effort to recreate the office as it existed in 1905. For several years, the club maintained the room as a shrine for visiting Rotarians. That responsibility was eventually assumed by the Paul Harris 711 Club, a nonprofit organization comprising Rotarians from around the world.
In 1989, when the Unity Building was scheduled to be demolished, the 711 Club carefully dismantled the office, salvaging the original interior from doors to radiators. Everything was placed in storage until a permanent place to reconstruct the room could be found. In 1993, the Board of Directors of Rotary International set aside space for it on the 16th floor of the RI World Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois. The office, Room 711, is a symbol, protected and maintained as the birthplace of Rotary.
Rotary is organized at club, district, and international levels to carry out its program of service. Rotarians are members of their clubs, and the clubs are members of the global association known as Rotary International. Each club elects its own officers and enjoys considerable autonomy within the framework of the standard constitution and the constitution and bylaws of Rotary International. Clubs are grouped into 529 Rotary districts, each led by a district governor who is an officer of Rotary International and represents the RI board of directors in the field.
A 19-member board of directors, which includes the international president and president-elect, administers Rotary International. These officers are elected at the convention; the selection process for choosing directors and the nominating committee for president are based on zones, each of which comprises approximately 15 districts. The board meets quarterly to establish policies.
While the Rotary International president is the highest officer of RI, the chief administrative officer of RI is the general secretary, who heads a staff of about 600 persons working at the international headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, USA, or in one of seven international offices around the world. Tours of One Rotary Center can begin any business day between 9:00 - 11:30 and 1:30 - 3:30. Their full-service cafeteria serves breakfast 7:00-9:30 and lunch from 11:30 -1:30. All visitors are welcome.
From 1905 until 1914, 100 Rotary clubs joined together to form this organization. They had common goals, lasting values, traditions, abilities to adapt, and great Rotarians. All of the original First 100 Clubs failed. They are in five countries, have weathered two world wars, and are still here. Read more about them on the History Newsletter website.
In 1955, Rotary celebrated its golden anniversary in Chicago. Fifty years after Paul P. Harris and his colleagues began Rotary's journey, there were 8,500 clubs in 89 countries. In 2003, there are approximately 1.2 million Rotary club members of more than 31,000 Rotary clubs in 166 countries. In 2005, when Rotary celebrates its centennial in Chicago, you'll have a chance to view Room 711 as RI offers tours of One Rotary Center.