The law firm will write the next chapter in Alexanderhuset’s history

A landmark decision

The historic Alexander House

Amy Royal first noticed the Alexander House in Springfield when she was a high school student at nearby MacDuffie, and was quickly taken by its beauty, 200 years of history and place in the city. Later, she began to see the property in a different light – as a potential home for her growing law firm. Earlier this year, that dream came true.

Amy Royal says she has long had a love for the historic Alexander House in Springfield.

She didn’t notice much until she was in high school at MacDuffie, which was a mile or so away from the home’s former location on State Street. Back then, she recalled, it was a beautiful home with a lot of history, and she’s always had a fondness for structures that fit that description and now lives in a home that’s nearly 250 years old.

Later, after starting her career as an employment attorney and eventually starting her own firm, she began to look at the 6,000-square-foot home, built in 1811, in a much different light — as a place to house her business.

Amy Royal, seen by the grand staircase of the historic Alexander House, has long had her eye on the landmark as a home for her business.

“I’ve always really, really loved the building,” she told BusinessWest. “Everything about it — the design, its place in the city’s history … it’s magnificent.”

These thoughts were only reinforced after the Alexander House was moved from its longtime location around the corner to Eliot Street to make way for the new federal courthouse in Springfield, which eventually opened its doors in late 2008. Royal had business in the courthouse and eventually found parking a few hundred yards down Eliot Street, necessitating a walk past the Alexander House.

“At the time it was beautiful, but you could tell it needed a lot of help — even though it had been moved by the federal government, it needed a lot of love,” she recalled. “I remember thinking ‘I wish I could buy that building; I wonder if that building is for sale?'”

Today, Royal is living the dream, literally – the one of moving his growing business, the royal law firm, into Alexanderhuset’s 14 rooms and also into the basement.

She has needed a new home almost from the day she moved into her now former home, rented space in the large office building at 819 Worcester St. in Indian Orchard. She looked at both options, leasing and ownership, and decided the latter made much more sense.

But owning the Alexander house? As she said, this was a long-held dream come true.

“I’ve always really loved the building. Everything about it – the design, its place in the history of the city … it’s magnificent.”

For this issue and its focus on commercial real estate, BusinessWest spoke with Royal about how her love of this historic home became a quest—and ultimately a dream come true. We also got a tour, one that quickly revealed why this landmark has been a career-long pursuit for Royal.

Home with the idea

Royal said she looks forward to going to the federal courthouse when she has business there, especially considering the large amounts of paperwork she traditionally takes with her when she’s in court.

Which … isn’t very often at all, she told BusinessWest.

One of the 14 rooms at Alexanderhuset

One of the 14 rooms in Alexander House has become home to the Royal Law Firm’s main conference room.

“We’re civil litigators … if I don’t see the inside of a courthouse in a year, it’s not unusual,” she said, adding that location, location, location, the driving force behind many real estate decisions, was only a minor factor in this case. It was the property that drove this decision.

Since launching her own law firm, Royal has had long drives to the federal courthouse. After starting in a small office on Center Street in Northampton, she moved to larger quarters on Pleasant Street and remained there until she moved her main office – she has satellite locations in several other cities – to a suite of offices in the building at Worcester Street in March 2020, just after the pandemic made its way to Western Mass.

She didn’t expect to be looking for a new home so soon, but rapid growth — traditionally put in the ‘good problem to have’ category, even if it presents challenges — made a change necessary.

“I knew we were outgrowing our space where we were — I just didn’t expect to outgrow it as quickly as we did,” she explained. “I just randomly started looking for something.”

In a neat twist of fate, this casual search coincided with the Alexander House being put on the market in June 2021, signaling the start of a new chapter for a home that had seen plenty of history and become historic in its own right.

Designed by prominent architect Asher Benjamin and built by noted builder Simon Sanborn, the Greek Revival home takes its name from its fourth owner, Henry Alexander Jr., a Springfield mayor who acquired the property in 1958. But it has another, smaller – familiar household name, Miss Amy House, derived from Alexander’s daughter, Amy, who lived in the house for many years and was quite active in the community on a number of philanthropic fronts.

The rooms at Alexanderhuset have been converted into a small meeting room and law offices.

The home has had a relatively small number of owners over the years, said Royal, who has learned about the property’s history — she learned in high school that one of the dormitories there was designed to mirror the Alexander House — and is always looking to learn more about it. .

When a search was begun for a home for a new federal courthouse at the beginning of this century, they became involved, and in particular, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, determined to find a location on State Street that is well above the cultural and historical thoroughfare of the city and home to several schools, churches and government buildings.

The property on which the Alexander House was located became the preferred site and to make it happen a short but complicated move had to be made due to the size, age and condition of the home, a move that was well scripted and captured. the city’s attention.

After the move, the home became several small businesses, including an architect and a lawyer, but much of it was unoccupied. As mentioned, it hit the market in the summer of 2021, and soon after Royal began his pursuit of the home.

Due to the aforementioned move, the home now has a new foundation, one of many features that caught her eye when she visited the property after it went on the market.

“The foundation they’re putting in is incredible — there’s got to be 10-foot ceilings there,” she told BusinessWest, adding that her company will use that space as a records center but may eventually build it out.

“I’ve always really loved the building. Everything about it – the design, its place in the history of the city … it’s magnificent.”

But there was so much more, obviously.

“I thought it was magnificent – the spiral staircase alone just stood out to me,” she recalled. “But every facet of the architecture — the crown molding, the ornate craftsmanship in all the trim, the grand ceilings, the chandeliers, the fireplaces … to me it just spoke of having a law firm inside; it’s a great place to have a law firm.”

Royal said she heard anecdotally that there were a number of other suitors for the Alexander House when it came on the market. She believes she prevailed because her passion for the property quickly became apparent, and she convinced then-owner Thomas Schoeper that she would be a good custodian of the landmark.

“He really wanted someone who would be a good steward of the property and really cared about its history and character and the integrity of the building itself,” she noted. “I spent a lot of time talking to him about all that.”

Royal closed in February of this year and has spent the last several months giving the property the “love” she said it needed. Improvements have included a new HVAC system, an alarm system, remodeling the kitchen, installing IT wiring throughout and painting many of the rooms, she said, noting that the property is subject to historic covenants and overseen by Historic New England, and also subject to for an annual inspection and historic preservation.

The firm moved in a few weeks ago and is still settling in, Royal said, adding that with a property of this vintage, there will always be work to do.

“It’s going to be a never-ending project,” she said. “That’s how it is with historic buildings.”

Meanwhile, her new mailing address is everything she hoped it could be and would be when she first started thinking about it as a future home all those years ago.

“Everyone here loves it — it’s a great place to work,” she said.

The right place, the right time

Noting the continued growth of her law firm, Royal was asked if Alexander House provides the necessary space for additional team members.

She said it did, but in a more emphatic voice she noted that she wouldn’t be moving again—soon, or probably ever.

“We may grow in other regions — that’s the plan — but this will be our headquarters building,” she said. “This is home.”

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

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