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In 1914 officers of the Harris Trust and Savings Bank were given a fascinating new document by Albert W. Harris. The document was a copy of the Resolution and Declaration of Trust creating the Cleveland Foundation—a new type of “community trust” and the first of its kind in the United States.

The bright idea, the legal foundation, the seed money: how Harris Bank changed the face of #Chicago philanthropy

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The bank’s lawyers were asked to prepare a similar document in accordance with trust law in Illinois. This new document was submitted for consideration by a group of notable bankers, lawyers and “influential citizens familiar with charitable affairs.”

And so the Trust was willed into being by the bank. The Resolution and Declaration of Trust creating The Chicago Community Trust was adopted by the Board of Directors of the Harris Trust and Savings Bank on May 12, 1915.

Photo portrait of Norman Harris

 

It was Norman Wait Harris, the patriarch of the family, who had urged his son Albert to bring the Cleveland document to the Harris board. The Harris family not only surfaced the idea of a community trust for Chicago, but also provided the earliest money to establish the Trust and initiate its operations: $200,000 over the next two years, primarily for administrative purposes.

When Norman Wait Harris, the patriarch of the family, passed away in 1916, the Harrises donated another $400,000 to the Trust as a special memorial fund.

Bank offices hosted Trust staff and Executive Committee meetings for the first several years of the Trust’s existence. The bank also acted as the Trust’s sole trustee bank from 1915 until 1948. The pivotal importance of the Harris Trust and Savings Bank to The Chicago Community Trust—and through the Trust, to Chicago’s extraordinary dedication to philanthropy—cannot be overstated.