Giving old homestead new life

Cameron Paquette / Staff Photo

By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer

C.J. Abatiell didn’t just invest when he purchased the former 3D’s building on Strongs Avenue.

He bought back his family’s history.

“That was my grandparents’ homestead and I lived around the corner at 22 Royce St.,” he said.

Abatiell, who owns and operates CJ’s Suds South on South Main Street, successfully applied for tax stabilization for the building at 86 Strongs Ave., which he purchased at auction.

The Board of Aldermen voted recently to freeze the property’s assessment at $81,700 for three years starting in April under a program aimed at encouraging investors to fix up blighted properties.

Abatiell said he put on a new roof, re-carpeted the downstairs and did plumbing and electrical work enabling Avellino Bakery, Pizza and Catering to move in.

“There’s two apartments upstairs, which I’m not going to attempt until approximately November,” he said. “Things’ll slow down a little bit and I can probably get workers a little more reasonable at that time of year.”

The building had housed the 3D’s bar for much of recent memory, but Abatiell said its history is much more varied.

“That building was 150 years old,” he said. “It was a Sears & Roebuck building.”

In the 1930s, he said, the front was his father’s barber shop.

“The back of that building, because my parents didn’t have much money, they rented that,” he said. “That was their first apartment.”

The building next door, he said, was where his grandparents lived and where his grandfather had a cobbler shop. In between the two, he said, is a stone grotto that has its own story.

“Around 1960, my grandmother was in Ira, picking mushrooms with her Italian friends,” he said.

They stumbled upon an 8-foot statue of the Virgin Mary, submerged up to its chest in a swamp.

“They were all born in Italy,” Abatiell said. “My grandmother was very religious and thought this was a miracle.”

So, he said, she came home, rounded up her five sons and told them they had to dig out the statue and bring it to town. They built a grotto between the two buildings to hold it. While the statue is gone, the grotto remains.

“Every night, that was lit up for years,” he said. “There was even a waterfall between the Virgin’s two feet. I don’t know what became of the statue.”

Before it became 3D’s, Abatiell said the building was a bar called The Raven, catering to Howe Scale workers.

“For about 70 or 75 years, there has been a bar of some sort in there,” he said.

The parking lot was once his grandmother’s garden.

“She’d be out there from daylight to dark,” Abatiell said. “It was a substantial garden, a quarter acre.”

Abatiell said with the traffic on the street, he’s confident Avellino’s will do well, and that current trends in downtown support adding apartments.

“I can remember as a child in the ‘50s, it was a nice neighborhood, pretty bustling,” he said. “They claim that’s going to be the new gateway to Rutland. It seems like most people are trying to spruce things up on that end.”

Gordon Dritschilo

Gordon Dritschilo is a Rutland Herald staff writer, Rutland Reader cultural correspondent and food enthusiast.

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