Real Estate: Check out one of the North Fork’s more unique offices

02/19/2012 8:00 PM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A 5 lb.4 oz. wide mouth bass that Anthony Palumbo caught when he was 14 at Norway Lake in Maine. The skeleton is used for anatomical references in personal injury cases.

The only rehearsing going on nowadays in this former Mattituck theater involves courtroom drama.

In a building where 19th-century North Fork families once put on plays and operas, two trial lawyers now ply their trade as personal injury attorneys, giving a whole new meaning to the term “break a leg.”

The unique offices of attorneys William Goggins and Anthony Palumbo are located on the north side of Main Road in Mattituck, two doors east of the former Glenwood Hotel. The building was moved to its current location in 1920 from its former spot on the northwest corner of Love Lane and Pike Street. The moving was done with a windlass — a pulley apparatus used to drag heavy objects — since it was too heavy to be pulled by oxen.

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Mr. Goggins, 51, who has lived in Laurel since the age of 8, had eyed the building for a while. He first tried to purchase it in 1986 to open a restaurant but couldn’t agree on a price with the owner. Instead, he headed to law school.

He and Mr. Palumbo, 41, purchased the vacant building, which had once housed the popular Jim’s Diner, in 2006 and renovated it as their 21st-century law office. Inside the building, a network server, tucked in a cabinet in the back room, centralizes documents, calendars and billing and connects to smartphones and the office copy machine.

“I didn’t envision this in law school,” Mr. Palumbo said. “The technology enhanced exponentially when I got out.”

There are no remnants of the old theater’s stage, where members of local families with well-known names —  Wells, Moore, Reeve and Tuthill among them — performed in productions like “How She Cured Him,” “Bolts and Bars” and “Down by the Sea,” according to the Mattituck-Laurel Historical Society. But in a tribute to the region’s seafaring roots, the lawyers decorated the former community theater in a maritime theme.

In one room, a harpoon purchased from a local nautical store leans against a merlot-colored wall, adding to the ambiance.

In an adjacent conference room, nearly 700 law books line hunter green walls from floor to ceiling. The books stand side by side in the library’s original hand-made barrister bookcase with decorative dentil molding.

“That’s only one-fifth of my collection,” said Mr. Goggins, insisting that using the books is faster than searching the Internet. A long table built in the 1920s and plucked from Riverhead Free Library sits in the center of the room and a paneled window was installed at the top of the wall for privacy.

The seagoing theme continues in Mr. Palumbo’s office, where a five-pound bass Mr. Palumbo caught in Montauk hangs on a wall. In a small kitchen is a wormwood-framed burlap bag used for catching oysters, unearthed from the basement of the Glenwood Hotel, which Mr. Goggins used to own.

“We try to mix in the historical stuff,” Mr. Palumbo said.

Despite these nods to the past, the lawyers say staying abreast of modern technology is essential, since they work in a small office in a small town and compete with attorneys at giant Manhattan firms.

“I think lawyers [at smaller firms] are learning they need to keep up with the pace of technology,” Mr. Goggins said.

One of the office’s conference rooms is equipped with a 42-inch flat screen television, which the attorneys can use to video-conference with colleagues — and if there’s any downtime, maybe take in a show or two. Just like old times.

sbrix@timesreview.com

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