MUSKEGON, MI – A renovation of a law office’s basement bar unveiled something like a time capsule of Muskegon’s legal history.
According to our media partners at Mlive.com, The Williams | Hughes law firm owns a law office at 120 W. Apple Ave. downtown Muskegon, built in 1973 next door to city hall and close to the county courthouse.
Williams Hughes recently undertook renovations to turn a basement area into an employee lounge. The area, which had 1970s-era orange carpet and beige walls, was once set up as kitchenette with a bar counter, but had become a storage area over the years.
“I was a little apprehensive as to what I was going to find under the carpet, as we’ve heard lots of stories about the parties that used to happen in the basement,” said legal secretary Kasey Spofford.
But instead of anything unethical or inappropriate, what she did find was a remnant of a party to break in the building.
The bar was covered with signatures with bigshots of 1970s Muskegon – the county’s then-corporate counsel attorney, two judges, and various politicians and business owners from around town.
“They were large and in charge,” said Douglas Hughes, the current owner of the building and law firm. “These were all the important people back in that time.”
Among some of the signatures:
Hon. John C. Ruck – Then a lawyer, but later chief judge of Muskegon County’s 14th Circuit Court from 2003-2011. He retired in 2013.
Hon. Andrew Wierengo, III – Then a lawyer, but later a judge in Muskegon County’s 60th District Court. He retired at the end of 2016.
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Harry Knudsen – Longtime area lawyer corporate counsel attorney for Muskegon County. He died in 2016.
Russ Cloetingh – An insurance underwriter who died in 2013.
Willis Andrews – The architect who designed the building.
The occasion and reason for the gathering was an house event.
David B. Merwin, currently “of counsel” to Williams Hughes, was one of the first attorneys to use the building. Merwin said he remembers attending the open house but not signing the bar, although his name appears there.
“There was a two-day open house when we moved into the building,” Merwin said. “I think that everyone that attended signed that board on the first day of the open house.”
Douglas Hughes, the owner of the law firm that owns the building today, said that in the years following 1973, the basement bar became a watering hole and hangout for many local lawyers. An old sign on a drain in a room adjacent to the bar instructs all who enter not to use a drain in the floor as a toilet.
The basement has since been remodeled, but Hughes said he hopes to preserve the signatures on the bar as a piece of history.
For more information information visit Mlive.com.