Step back in time to the first Rotary meeting

On 23 February 1905, Paul Harris met with three acquaintances in Room 711 of the Unity Building in Chicago. Their purpose: to start a club based on “mutual cooperation and informal friendship.”

As they sat talking in Gustavus Loehr’s office, these men could hardly have imagined the historic significance of their meeting. For Harris, Loehr, Silvester Schiele, and Hiram Shorey, this club, which they named “Rotary,” simply offered a chance to have a little fun while making new business connections.

But that one club soon became dozens, and then hundreds, and finally thousands — with millions of  members providing immeasurable humanitarian and civic service around the world. And as Rotary grew, Rotarians came to fully appreciate the significance of that first meeting in Loehr’s office. In 1980, the Rotary Club of Chicago rented Room 711 and gathered period furnishings and fixtures to re-create the look and feel of an early 20th-century office for Rotary’s 75th anniversary.

In 1983, 22 Rotarians formed the Paul Harris 711 Club to maintain the room as a Rotary landmark and heritage site. When the Unity Building was scheduled for demolition in 1989, the 711 Club made arrangements to remove the doors, radiator, ceiling lights, and furniture, and temporarily reconstructed the room at other Chicago locations.

In 1992, Rotary International agreed to host a reconstruction of the room at One Rotary Center. Originally constructed on the 16th floor in 1994, the room was relocated to the first floor in 2014. Thousands of visitors to Rotary’s world headquarters have explored Room 711 and experienced the environment of that historic meeting.

To visit the reproduction of Room 711, please book a guided tour of Rotary world headquarters in Evanston, Illinois.