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  • Paul Van Nest

ROTARY BEGINS in KINGSTON

The four local Rotary Clubs: Kingston, Kingston-Frontenac, Cataraqui-Kingston and Kingston Waterfront, have a membership of 150. Each club meets on a different day and time, and sets its own schedule and priorities. This evolution of Rotary in Kingston over the past 100 years reflects the goals of a worldwide organization to attract professional men and women who embrace Service Above Self.

While Rotary’s beginnings date back to Chicago in 1905, it wasn’t until 1921 that Rotary was introduced in Kingston. The original club – the Rotary Club of Kingston – has a lovely banner stating that it was formed on April 1, 1921. April Fool’s Day! Surely our predecessors would not have marked this specific date intentionally. Right?


After digging deep in the club’s archives, the first hint at an error is that April 1 in 1921 fell on a Friday despite the fact that our regular meetings from the get-go have always taken place on Thursdays. A search of the minutes found the following:


“Kingston, March 1, 1921

At a luncheon held on March 1 in the Frontenac Hotel, Rotarians from Montreal, Ottawa and Belleville explained the aims and objects of Rotary to a number of Kingstonians who were interested in the subject.” … “It was moved by Leman A. Guild, seconded by Roy H. Ward, that the local men assembled on this the 1st day of March proceed to form a Rotary Club in Kingston. Carried.”

Minutes of meeting March 11

“A meeting was held in the Frontenac Hotel on Friday, March 11, 1921 with Dr. Jos. J. Stewart in the chair. Members present: J. Hunter, Luman A. Guild, M. Graham, A.N. Lyster, H.F. Richardson, R.G. Andrews, M.M. Sims, E. Wray VanLuven, G.M. Stenton, S.W. Dyde, H.C. Pense, R.H. Ward, and W.J. Cairns (Ottawa Rotary Club)”. 13 present.


“[The] Committee on Constitution and Bylaws brought in the report that we accept the Constitution and Bylaws of the International Association of Rotary Clubs with some additions, one of which was that regular meetings be held on Thursdays, 12:30 p.m. Membership dues were set at $20 per annum, payable semi-annually, on the first day of May and November. It was then moved by H.E. Pense, seconded by G.M. Stenton, that we accept the Constitution and Bylaws as read. Carried. Pres. J.J. Stewart announced the Rotary Club of Kingston Ont. duly organized.”


The club authorized the President and Secretary to do the paperwork to affiliate the club with the International Association of Rotary Clubs (known as Rotary International the following year). That was it - we were born: 11 March 1921. The charter must have been either received or written on April 1, and that is the date that has stuck.


Eight Rotarians were admitted in March of 1921 and by the end of May, the number had risen to 25. Our archives also detail that weekly meetings were then held in the British American Hotel, which burned to the ground on March 19, 1963. The Four Points Sheraton Hotel now occupies this site. The club has moved its meeting location several times over the years to the LaSalle Hotel, Holiday Inn, The Ambassador, Minos, Denny’s on Benson St, and currently by Zoom.

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