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Downtown Building Owners Reflect on Its History

Credit: sheltonct.newenglandsite.com/
Credit: sheltonct.newenglandsite.com/
The Howe Avenue building destroyed Monday may have been 150 years old, but it always passed inspection, according its owners.

Elaine and Ralph Matto bought 446 Howe Ave. in the 1980s and when it only had running cold water and not every apartment had bathroom. The building was inspected in late 2013 and passed, said Elaine Matto.

The Mattos renovated it and installed a sprinkler system. Matto was not sure why it did not work early Monday when fire ripped through the building, which housed apartments on top and businesses on the first floor.

When they first bought the building, a woman lived there who had raised five children with only cold running water and a bathroom with toilet but no shower, Matto said.

She recalled that when a hot water heater was installed, the tenant asked how to refill it after she took a hot shower.

The block housed businesses including Petal Pusher, Howe Convenient, an art school and the Universal Hair Studio. The other businesses, Joy Lee restaurant and Liquid Lunch, remain standing.

Matto said they are waiting to see what their insurance company says before they decide how to proceed.

Mayor Mark A. Lauretti has said all the major fires downtown in his 22 years in office involved older buildings. The Mattos' building was about 150 years old and stopping fires in older buildings is difficult, according to the mayor.

Matto praised the firefighters' response to the blaze and the outpouring of donations. "It's wonderful to see the response. Everyone's going to be taken care of," she said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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