Rotarian Harvey Wood spent his recent August vacation in Chicago, USA.  While there Harvey took the opportunity to visit the headquarters of Rotary International in the leafy, lakeside suburb of Evanston.  

“Tours of the complex are free and easy to arrange but need to be booked in advance” he said.  “The 18 story building houses over 500 employees of our club.  The building is new and very smart.  It presents a great image of a progressive and enterprising organisation.  

My tour guide was Gina and the tour began with our club’s founder Paul Harris.  His law office was in downtown Chicago (‘the Loop’) but the original building has since been demolished.  However I was able to see a replica of his office, with period furniture and the original meeting table.  I shook hands with a statue of Mr Harris.  The head is modelled after a sculpture created by Isao Morika and given to Paul Harris in 1935 by Umekichi Younehama, founder of Rotary in Japan.  I visited the trophy hall where significant donors to the Foundation are recognised, including 2 Kiwis.  

Next came the pledge room, where visiting Rotarians can record what they will personally do to further the club’s goals.  After reading other pledges I was very keen to ensure that my one recorded our club’s name (“Help Waimate Rotary fundraise to support Give Kids a Future – vaccinating kids in the Pacific”.  The pledge could only contain 80 characters so I had to fudge it).  

Last on the tour was the boardroom where I tested the bell for tone (tick) and checked the seats for comfort (excellent), and enjoyed a great view of Lake Michigan and the city skyline. “

RI headquarters is very easy to get to.  A half hour metro ride from downtown Chicago to Davis station then a short walk to One Rotary Center. 


Harvey with fellow tourist Greg at Paul Harris’s table


Harvey shaking hands with the PH statue.


Harvey makes a pledge


The view from the boardroom.


Harvey and Gina outside One Rotary Center