Remembering the Past and Embracing the Future
It’s a melancholy week at 1310 Gadsden Street. It’s also a typical “Famously Hot” August day in Columbia – while the clouds are keeping the temperatures in the high 80s, you can cut the humidity with a knife. After 22 years in this old iconic warehouse in The Vista, it’s time to say “goodbye.”
All personal items have been removed from every office; there are no pictures on the walls; and labeled boxes are stacked everywhere anticipating today’s move to WestLawn in the BullStreet District. I have been on a sentimental journey for the past six months as I’ve purged and shred old files and reflected on my good fortune of having been blessed to work with attorneys recognized for their keen legal intellect, wisdom, and judgment. I have also had the privilege to work with dedicated and committed paralegals, firm administrators, administrative assistants and staff who have also made significant contributions to Robinson Gray’s success. Before we embrace the future at WestLawn, I’d like to briefly reflect on our past.
While there is much excitement and great anticipation about our firm’s move to our new home at WestLawn in the BullStreet District, leaving a home that’s been the backdrop for the greater part of one’s legal career is emotional.
This old warehouse built in 1913 by RL Bryan as a textbook depository defined and distinguished our law firm. Many questioned the purchase of this old warehouse in 1998 as the Vista was desolate and the warehouses were “boarded up” and dilapidated. To purchase any property in the Vista during this time was a gamble. However, it was a gamble I was willing to take because of the deep respect and trust I had for my law partners and great friends, Thornwell (“Biff”), Monteith, Grady, Cal, and Will and our good friend, Cubby. We were also very fortunate that my banker cousin, Henry, was a Renaissance man who saw the purchase of this building as an opportunity, rather than a risk, and a significant investment in the history of Columbia and our law firm.
With the keen architectural eye of my childhood and life-long friend, Sanders Tate, then with Watson Tate Savory, he saw beyond the uneaten hamburgers and French fries left on the tables; the molded cherries, orange and lemon slices left on the bar; and the large salt-water fish tank abandoned on the landing by the front door when Jerry McGuire’s suddenly closed its doors. From the appearance of the interior of the restaurant/bar when we first toured the building in 1999, it was obvious there was a sudden, unanticipated exit by the prior establishment. However, this old building spoke to Sanders, and he designed office space that incorporated the warmth and beauty of the brick walls and beautiful heart-pine floors. This old building also spoke to us, but little did we realize how others would associate our firm with this historical treasure and how this treasure would distinguish us.
For those who may not know the history, this building was purchased out of foreclosure. While Jerry McGuire was the last occupant of the building in 1998, most living in Columbia during the 1980s recall it being home to the Spaghetti Warehouse. During the past 22 years, discussions about the cable car dining experience at the Spaghetti Warehouse was a topic of many conversations! The vibe of the building was conducive to a more casual, relaxed atmosphere that eased tensions typically associated with contested legal disputes. By taking a chance on a warehouse in a run-down industrial part of Columbia, we became known as visionary … forward-thinking and creative – and we embraced that as part of our identity.
The creaks and moans of the brick walls and heart pine flooring formed our law firm’s strong foundation. Despite the creaks and moans and nineteen (19) steps to reach the second floor, it became a safe harbor for many who have come and gone through the years. You know who you are – each special in your own right- who contributed to make our firm so special and successful. To borrow a quote from the legendary news anchor, David Brinkley, “A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others have thrown at him or her.” While the bricks of this treasure were not thrown at us, we took advantage of the rich history of this old building in pursuit of success. Its character made us mindful of the importance of character as individuals and as a firm. In recent years, when searching for new office space, our attorneys advocated for the use of unique building materials to mirror this building and which exemplify strength, vision, sustainability and warmth. The Hughes Development Corporation embraced our ideas, and the architectural firm of Perkins&Will designed a new building incorporating some of the unique features of the historical warehouse. From our past, we will embrace the future at West Lawn, and this is very exciting!
With the moving vans in the parking lot today, it’s time to say “goodbye.” May the next occupants at 1310 Gadsden Street respect this old building’s storied past and preserve all that makes it grand. May we all be blessed to live long enough to be as revered as this old building which played a significant role in defining Robinson Gray’s culture. Here’s to remembering the past and embracing our future at WestLawn. Godspeed.