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  • Writer's pictureChris Murphy

Launching pad to US Supreme Court

Many thanks to friend of the building Rob B, who gave us the heads up that, in 1882, a young lawyer named Mahlon Pitney appears to have set up his first practice in the Richards Building. He would later become a Supreme Court justice, appointed by President Taft in 1912. (Along the way, he was also a member of the US House of Representatives and president of the NJ State Senate.)

The topic is thoroughly covered in the Winter 2012 newsletter of the Dover Area Historical Society, available here. From the newsletter: "One of Pitney’s first clients was Dover’s first mayor, George Richards who owned vast wealth in real estate, retail businesses, mining interests, railroads, banking, you name it, he had interest in it. Pitney represented Mr. Richards in many legal battles and challenges, especially dealings with his Dover-Rockaway RR and the Central Rail line that ran through the heart of Dover."

Also interesting, from the perspective of the Richards building, is the timing. Pitney ran an ad in the February 21 1882 edition of the Iron Era newspaper announcing his new offices in the "Iron Era Building". This name is also used on later maps to describe the Richards Building. It suggests that the front section of the building we currently call the Richards Building was already built in the early 1880s when Mahlon Pitney moved in.

One more fun fact: Pitney was the great-grandfather of Christopher Reeves (of Superman fame).

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