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History of 144 West Main – The "John Root House"

The age of any colonial-era house is usually difficult to ascertain. The original builders are long dead and building permits were not around at the time they were constructed, which might have provided a public memorialization of age. Deeds frequently omit to indicate whether buildings were on the land that the deeds convey. Moreover, most colonial buildings were not built all at once, but grew with additions made over fifty or a hundred years, added as family needs grew. That is certainly the case of the building at 144 West Main, refereed to in the historical annals as the John Root House, and supposedly finally completed around 1828. Some of John Root's predecessors were in "Farmington," the southern reaches of which are now Plainville, in the early 1700s. This is the building currently owned and occupied by the Jainchill & Beckert Law Offices.

The building was substantially restored in the period 1959 - 1962, at the direction of Milton and Gertrude Koskoff. Milton Kokoff, together with his partner Edward J. McMahon, purchase the building for $18,400 in 1959 as a future office for the law firm of Koskoff & McMahon. They retained carpenter Frank Steffany to execute the project. Steffany had extensive experience in restoration of antique buildings, and had been apprenticed to Axel Johnson, who specialized in such work. He was sensitive to all the possibilities with which he had to work, and undoubtedly put the building back into its original condition to the extent that was humanly possible. During the course of the restoration, much was learned about the history of the building.

Undoubtedly construction of the house commenced on the North Washington side, before the America revolution, as the North Washington portion constitutes an absolutely typical colonial house, with a center hallway and a center stairway leading upstairs. Examination of the underside of the roof, which has huge wooden pegs affixing the rafters to the main horizontal beams, is also consistent with that theory. The West Main Street extension of it was probably built in two stages, the first ending with the fireplace just to the left of the current main entrance to the building. When Koskoff and McMahon acquired the building, that fireplace was hidden behind a wall, but Henry (Harry) Castle, the town historian, who had been in the building many times, said that there was a grand fireplace hiding behind it, and in reliance on his recollection, Steffany broke through the wall and uncovered the fireplace.

Some time after construction of the first West Main Street extension, the building was again extended and another fireplace was backed right up to the one in the entrance room. The rooms with the back-to-back fireplaces probably became the winter and summer kitchens of the house, as both were used for cooking and baking and have ovens. In all five fireplaces were in view in 1959 and during the course of renovations, evidence emerged indicating that there had been a fireplace in every room.

When Koskoff and McMahon acquired the building it was being used as a rooming house, but after the restoration was completed, in the early 1960s, they used it as office space for five lawyers plus support staff. Many lawyers later active in surrounding communities got their start with the firm. Koskoff & McMahon, then known as Koskoff, McMahon & Condon, ceased operation in 1991 with the retirement of it's last surviving partner, D. Thomas Condon, and for the following four years the place was unused. In 1995 Atty David Koskoff began using the lower floor as law offices for himself and Atty Roger G. Neilson, and converted the upper floor to a residential apartment. With the retirement of David Koskoff in 2009 the newly-formed firm of Jainchill & Beckert began using the lower floor as its offices, ultimately expanding its operation to the upper level too. They have made some changes in the layout to the upper floor to better suit their needs.

David Koskoff, whose father Milton Koskoff, passed away in 1997, said that his father would have been very pleased that "his" building continues to be occupied by attorneys, and especially Aaron Janchill and William Beckert, distinguished trial lawyers who, like the original Koskoff, specialize in personal injury litigation.

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