Williamstown lawyer relocates family practice

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By Jamie Baker-Nantz

With an eye on preserving the past, John Brent Threlkeld moved his law practice from its downtown location to the former home of the late Nelson and Dorothy B. Skirvin, at the corner of School Road and Main Street in Williamstown.
And after a little paint and elbow grease, he’s opening the office to the public for an open house on April 12.
Brent’s father, William F. Threlkeld, who is now semi-retired, hung out his shingle on Main Street in 1949. He spent the next 50 years serving private clients, as well as advising Williamstown’s mayor and city council as the city’s attorney. His wife, Helen Ruth Threlkeld, served as his assistant since 1952.


In 1982, Bill Threlkeld moved the law practice into 144 N. Main and in 1991, after earning his juris doctorate from Ohio Northwestern University, Brent joined his father in the family business.
The brown brick building in the center of town was like a second home to Brent.
He said he wouldn’t have considered moving but structural issues to his building from the building next door necessitated it.
Brent purchased the Skirvin’s home last year and moved the practice in August.

“We wanted to preserve the integrity of the house and I told the staff we would make upgrades, but the wood work was staying,” Brent said.
The white, two-story frame home sitting across from Elliston-Stanley Funeral Home was built around 1898.
“The house was in pretty good shape to be that old,” Brent said.
Brent and his staff, Valerie Strong and Stella Cook, began the renovation, including removing the old carpet, which revealed original hardwood floors.
“They were so nice, we sanded and stained them and didn’t want to cover them up,” Brent said.

The house, which features original stained glass windows, high ceilings and pocket doors in the parlor, did get a fresh coat of paint and new wiring.
The home’s original heating system consisted of two fireplaces. The small metal half-moon shaped vents for a coal-fired furnace are still visible, but heating and plumbing did get an overhaul.

A conference room, which probably was the parlor of the home, is filled with memorabilia from Bill Threlkeld’s career, including the first wooden sign that hung outside his law office.
Brent’s office is on the second floor, where hundreds of volumes of legal books are now housed. Brent had special filters installed on the upstairs windows so the sunlight would not damage the lambskin covered books, some of which date to the early 1800s.

“It was hard to make a move because 144 N. Main was like home, but I do like it here and I haven’t found myself returning to the old office, so that’s a good sign,” he said.
Brent said he looked at other buildings in Williamstown before purchasing the Skirvin home.
“It was important for me to stay in Williamstown,” said Brent, a Williamstown native and graduate of Williamstown High School. “I looked at the central business district and even though this building was older than some of those it was just more suitable.”

Brent said his hope is that once the Ark Encounter project opens at the south end of Williamstown, there will be retail shops that open in the downtown area.
“I think what you could see is little Gatlinburg type of stores in our downtown and that’s a good thing,” Brent said.
While the new digs are smaller than the previous location, Threlkeld and staff are adjusting. Client files are currently in storage off the site, but will soon be housed in a secure building on the property.