For many decades, the 115-year-old house served as the law office and residence of James Epps III, the city attorney for Johnson City. Epps was the longest serving municipal attorney in the state and among the longest tenured in the nation when he died in 2007. He had served as the City Commission’s chief legal counsel for more than 40 years.
It was with that unique history in mind that officials from Fox & Farmer decided to purchase the house. Partners said Wednesday they were also drawn to the house’s ornamental architecture, including its elaborate woodwork and stained glass windows.
“We want to keep the historic feel of the property,” said Alexander “Sandy” Gothard, who has already set up his office in an upstairs room with tall windows facing Unaka Avenue. “This house has been an important part of Johnson City’s history for a long while.”
His partner, Steve Fox, who is the son of the firm’s co-founder, James Fox, said restoring the house will be “a process” that could take a few years.
“We plan on growing and being an important part of this community,” he said.
The house includes eight rooms and a kitchen. Fox & Farmer paid $225,000 for the 4,500-square-foot house.
“We wanted this building from day one, but it took a while to make it happen,” said Bradley Farmer, a law partner and son of the firm’s co-founder Jerry Farmer.
James Fox, who started a legal office in Knoxville in 1986 before joining his former law school classmate Jerry Farmer a year later to found Fox & Farmer, said he and his partners have been “welcomed to the community,” which is one of the reasons they made Johnson City their firm’s headquarters in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.
Fox & Farmer also serves clients in Knoxville, Morristown and Chattanooga, as well as in neighboring states. The firm handles auto accidents, personal injury, workers’ compensation and Social Security disability claims.
The firm has operated for the past two years from offices located at the King Center, 300 E. Main St., in downtown Johnson City. The firm expects to employ as many as five staffers at the Unaka Avenue office.