Reprinted from the August 22, 2014 edition of the Peoria Journal Star, article by Steve Tarter, Journal Star Business Editor. Picture from the Journal Star, from 1960, of the then Commercial Bank Building.
Kavangh, Scully, Sudow, White & Frederick P.C., can trace its founding to 1883, a time when Peoria was not just starting to prosper — but looked to compete with bustling metropolitan rivals like Chicago and St. Louis.
“While (Peoria’s) population, commerce, trade and manufacturing are not yet equal to her great rivals, she is moving forward at an enviable pace toward the front,” noted the Peoria City Directory of 1883.
“Chicago and St. Louis have a large surplus population, who produce nothing. Peoria, on the other hand, utilizes her entire population in her various lines of business,” the directory stated.
All that business activity spelled a need for legal help that could assist firms in Peoria as they developed.
“This firm grew up with Peoria, representing mostly local firms and railroads,” said Brian Mooty, a partner with the Kavanagh firm.
The names of some of those firms include Caterpillar Tractor, Bergner’s, Cohen’s Furniture, Szold’s and area breweries, he said.
Perhaps the most prominent symbol for the Kavanagh firm has been its location since 1928: the seventh floor of the PNC Building, 301 SW Adams St., a building that once housed the Commercial National Bank.
As a result of the merger of six banks in the 1920s, the Commercial National Bank became a financial force in central Illinois.
“In earlier times, law firms were usually associated with a specific bank. We represented the Commercial National Bank,” said Mooty.
Bob Gates, another Kavanagh partner, described the building as the firm’s “beachhead in Peoria,” pointing out that the firm’s lease with the bank building had an interesting addition.
“One of the aspects of the lease was that if another law firm was to move into the building, they would have access to our law library. In exchange, there was no charge for the space provided for the library,” he said.
In an era of electronic record-keeping where the library has moved to the laptop, the lease provision no longer applies, said Gates.
Mooty added that at one time there were several thousand volumes in the firm’s library.
In a Kavanagh history compiled in 1983, the year of a centennial celebration at the firm, the late Joseph Sudow, a longtime partner, wrote, “It is interesting to note that almost all of the early members of the firm were judges at one time or another.”
Those judge/members included Nicholas Worthington, Samuel Page, Leslie Puterbaugh, Samuel Wead and George Page, who later became president of the American Bar Association.
“It would appear that the dominant personalities during the first 80 years were George Page (1885-1919), J.T. Hunter (1903-1956) and Richard Kavanagh (1919 to 1963),” stated Sudow in the firm history.
“They each created the leadership and type of environment that permitted themselves and the lawyers in the firm to be a lawyer who was the wise counselor, a generalist, who was relied on for his judgment and experience and who operated in close relation to the client whose business he understood very well,” noted Sudow.
“We would hope that the wise counselor has not vanished from the scene entirely, at least in the Peoria community, but it becomes increasingly difficult in this period of specialization to operate on an economical basis and still maintain the grand style of the specialist,” he wrote.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Kavanagh firm experienced growth, going from six lawyers in 1959 to as many as 18 lawyers.
“In the last 30 years as most (local) financial institutions were sold to national firms, it caused us to get smaller,” said Mooty, adding that business clients like Foster & Gallagher and Berg-ners, both once headquartered in Peoria, either closed or moved.
Kavanagh partner Karen Stumpe said that the law firm continues to represent local governments (“which don’t leave town”) and has close ties with the area’s growing medical community. “We represent a lot of physician groups,” she said.
Gates said that the firm’s long history helps clients that are looking for an institution “that will be there for trusted advice and counsel.”
History of Kavanagh, Scully, Sudow, White & Frederick
1883-1885 — Worthington and Page
1885-1890 — Worthington, Page & Page
1890-1894 — Worthington, Page & Brady
1894-1897 — Page, Wead & Puterbaugh
1897-1899 — Page and Wead
1899-1903 — Page, Wead & Ross
1903-1909 — Page, Wead & Hunter
1909-1913 — Page, Wead, Hunter & Scully
1913-1919 — Page, Hunter & Page
1919-1927 — Hunter, Page & Kavanagh
1927-1945 — Hunter, Kavanagh & McLaughlin
1945-1956 — Hunter, Kavanagh, McLaughlin & Bond
1956-1959 — Kavanagh, McLaughlin & Bond
1959-1964 — Kavanagh, Bond, Scully, Sudow & White
1964-1966 — Kavanagh, Scully, Sudow & White
1966-2014 — Kavanaugh, Scully, Sudow, White & Frederick
Kavanagh members today
Phillip Lenzini (1976-present)
Karen Stumpe (1980-present)
Brian Mooty (1986-present)
James Springer (1988-present)
Gary Schmidt (1978-1982, 1993-present)
Bruce Thiemann (2005-present)
Ann Pieper (2008 to present)
Robert Gates (2008-2011, 2014-present)
Elizabeth Arcot (2011-present)
Michael Shemkus (2013-present)
James Hafele (2004-present)
William Loeffel (2013-present)
John Sahn (2012-present)