Rutland's gateway from the west should be inviting, an
invitation to both occasional visitors and those who use it
frequently. But scaffolding around the tan Art Deco building at 173
West Street has disfigured this important entrance for most of the
past five years, snagged on the delineator between past and
Built about 1930 to house John L. Cootey's growing automotive
dealership, the two-story building reflected the prevalent design
of the time. Art Deco represented the new machine age, with crisp,
straight, orderly lines, glass blocks for natural light with
privacy, and stylized trim.
When the U.S. Postal Service began making repairs to the exterior
of what was now the post office annex, it failed to take into
account Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act,
requiring any federal agency to consult with the appropriate
historical preservation body before starting work on a historic
property. Instead, the USPS began demolishing the terra cotta
The Vermont Division of Historic Preservation was forced to
request that the work stop, says Devin Colman, state architectural
historian for Vermont. At that time, the state believed that
although there were other terra cotta façade Art Deco structures in
Vermont, the Cootey building was the only one constructed with
After a lengthy consultation process, the two parties reached an
agreement. The damaged portions of the building's historic
polychrome terra cotta Art Deco façade were to be rehabbed with new
However, a closer examination sets 173 West St. even further
apart from the others. All the other frequently cited Art Deco
structures - the Flynn Theatre in Burlington, the W.G. Grant
building in Springfield and its twin in Newport, the Latchis Hotel
and Theatre in Brattleboro, and the former Montgomery Ward building
and the turreted Service Building on Rutland's Merchants Row - are
faced with other materials.
The Cootey building is Vermont's sole example of terra cotta
Social scientists and community developers have increasingly
emphasized retention of as many representative building styles and
materials as are consistent with a given community's history. Doing
so retains that indefinable "sense of place" that gives each locale
its own individuality, makes it "home" to the people who live
Lest an insistence on matching the original terra cotta exterior
seem like an unreasonable demand, Colman is quick to say that terra
cotta itself is still commonly used as a building material. "The
trick is to make a mold and match the original," he says.
A recent agreement between the State Historic Preservation Office
and the USPS calls for not only fabricating new terra cotta tiles
for the building's exterior, but also replacing broken glass
panels, refurbishing steel frame windows, and removing lead paint
and asbestos. All is likely to be complete by late 2014.
How does this building fit into Rutland's history?
The former John L. Cootey dealership, 169-173 West Street,
represented a new age when it was built. The building's Art Deco
detailing, like the automobiles inside, represented modernity. When
the dealership first opened, automotive shoppers had theirchoice of
Packard, Hudson, and Essex (also made by Hudson) cars.
Reading back issues of the Rutland city directories, available
online through the Rutland Historical Society, one can see the
story of the automobile's ascendancy. In the 1927 directory, John
L. Cootey appears as secretary-manager of Rutland Motor Sales,
boarding with Susie D. Cootey, the widow of Thomas A. Cootey,
living at 40 Washington Street.
Two years later, John L. Cootey was an automobile dealer
himself, performing general repairing, oiling and greasing, as well
as sales. The business telephone number was 1261 with no prefix,
and the dealership was at 64 West Street.
By the 1933 directory, his business had grown and his dealership
had been built. He employed Robert Aldrich as a salesman and
Christine LaVeccia as a stenographer at the "Cootey garage,"
located at the same address, but in the rear of the building. A
full-page advertisement features a photograph of the two-story
building. His growing enterprise serviced "all makes," and also
offered storage and car washing among its services. He enjoyed a
higher social position, financial officer in American Legion Post
31, which met at 14 Cottage Street.
The Essex had been replaced by the Terraplane in 1935. Cootey's
sales staff was larger: Rufus F. Walker joined Aldrich in the sales
department; Fletcher E. Brush was an auto mechanic, Ovila J.
Blanchard was the garage service manager, and George R. Cahee was
an additional employee. The business ad (page 53) was an
illustration of the Packard One Twenty, "worthy member of a
Buyers in 1937 could choose a Packard with six, eight, or twelve
cylinders, costing $950 to $6,000 delivered, or a Hudson or
Terraplane with six or eight cylinders, $790 to $1,400 delivered.
The 1937 directory also includes a photo of the dealership, showing
its distinctive Art Deco trim.
Had tightening economic conditions begun to affect Cootey's
business by the time the 1939 directory was published? His
advertisement is smaller; so is his product line, now Packard and
Hudson. His staff, though, seems a bit larger. Faith Perry is the
company bookkeeper. Aldrich, Blanchard, Brush, and Cahee still work
there, and "employees" include Jason Billado, Frederick Fredette,
Mirti Angelo and Lloyd Fair, while Lyle Morse is now part of the
Cootey's business survived the Depression that annihilated so
many businesses of the time. We can pick up his story in the 1947
directory - no Rutland directories were published in 1941, 1943, or
1945. John L. Cootey had become a director of the Killington
National Bank of Rutland and president of the Rutland Chamber of
Commerce, which had offices in the Mead Building. He and his wife
Dorothy lived at 122 Bellevue Ave.
The auto dealership sold Cadillacs, Pontiacs, and Packards. It
also sold Delco auto batteries, and performed oiling and greasing,
towing and wrecking, and automotive washing. Two other Cooteys,
presumably his sons, worked for him. George F. lived at 122
Belllevue; Thomas A. was married to Ellen and lived at 8 Melrose
Success for the dealership supported an even larger staff at 173
West Street, including five mechanics and eight "employees." Robert
T. Aldrich has become the business's sales manager, and William C.
Ryan has joined the sales staff. There are now three female
employees: clerk Eris M. deBianco, garage cashier Alice McLellan,
and secretary Gena Ribolini.
The changing role of the automobile shows up in the 1949
directory. The dealership has added General Motors truck sales and
service to its advertising. It has two telephone lines, one for
sales (1261) and the other for service (1262).
Romance also shows up in the directory. Formerly a clerk, Eris
deBianco is now a bookkeeper and married to the boss's son George.
George, his dad John, Robert Aldrich, and William C. Ryan are
co-owners. The business cashier is now Alice Martin, presumably the
former Alice McLellan.
Position titles are also in flux. John R, Brough is now a buyer
for the company. While Charles M. Duffy is the company service
manager, Lynn E. Harris is parts manager. Two employees - Edwin N.
Smith and Robert L. Webb - list their position as "janitor."
The business had incorporated by 1951, now listed as John L. Cootey
Inc., with John as president; Robert Aldrich, vice president;
William C. Ryan, treasurer; and George F. Cootey, clerk of
corporation. Robert Eddy, Robert D. Roach, and Harry B. Townsend
are salesmen. John L. Cootey, in addition to remaining a director
of Killington Bank & Trust Company, was also a vice president
of Rutland Hospital, still at 46 Nichols Avenue.
No directory was published in 1953. By 1955, significant changes
have appeared. The staff appears to have shrunk, perhaps because
the dealership is no longer selling Packards or GMC products.
Killington Motors at 270 S. Main now carries the GMC line. The
company has added automobile painting to its list of services.
William C. Ryan has a business in Brandon. Perhaps Cootey is
slowing down a little; he is still a director of Killington Bank
& Trust Company, but not an officer. Rutland now has telephone
exchanges; the business is back to a single phone line, PR 3-3308.
Mrs. Cootey is recording secretary of the Rutland Garden Club.
Additional changes have occurred by the time the 1957 directory
is published. The business now sells used cars, and John F. Brough
is the used car manager. Commuting must be easier than in earlier
years; he lives in Castleton. Wheel balancing is yet another
service the company offers, while automobile greasing has taken on
the more sophisticated description of 'lubrication.'
Another gap in directories appears in 1959; none was published that
The 1961 directory displays what is seemingly the same picture
the company has been using for a number of editions. The Tempest
has joined Cadillac and Pontiac in the dealership's sales lineup,
and general car repairs, body and fender work, and 24-hour road and
towing service are listed. Is their inclusion a sign that business
is slowing? The Cooteys now have a telephone at home as well as at
Robert Aldrich is no longer listed as part of the company; he
appears to be the salesman at Stowell Corp., selling cars at 263 S.
Main. George F. Cootey seems to have left the family business, now
an engineer at GE Burlington.
Time has brought even more changes by 1963. The senior Cootey
seems to likely be retired, still director of a bank, but that is
now called Vermont Bank & Trust. He is also trustee of the
Veteran Soldiers Home in Bennington. His building at 173 West St.
is now known as Franklin Pontiac-Cadillac with Frank A. Vasos as
its president. For the first time in 30 years, the business at that
location has no display advertising in the city directory. Nor are
any members of the Cootey family listed in the residential portion
of the local city directory.
The business had scheduled a move when the 1965 directory was
ready for publication, with plans to re-locate at 80 Main St.,
"next to the drive-in" in August. Its quarter-page ad promised the
most efficient, newest service and sales building anywhere, the
home of "Franklinized 'new'" used cars, complete with financing.
Frank A. Vasos remained company president.
In 1967, 173 West Street was vacant. Vasos was president of
Franklin Leasing Corp., and of Franklin Pontiac-Cadillac Inc.
Killington Manufacturing Company made or wholesaled gloves in the
building according to the 1969 directory. Company president was
Henry Veghte Jr, with Isaac Miller vice president and Edmund Shaw
Management changed in the succeeding two years.
President-treasurer became Bernard Montant, while Richard Riker was
vice president-secretary. It appears they may also have lived in
the building or at least used it as their primary address.
After a four-year gap (the 1973 directory was not published), 173
West St. was vacant again. The change in its circumstances may have
been quite recent, considering that the company name is still
listed at that location under the category 'gloves.' It could be
that its only employee was Anthony Bizarro.
From 1980 through at least 1996, the building was home to the
local office of the State Department of Employment and Training,
says long-time employee Dave Colburn. The unemployment office
occupied the front part of the building with its glass, while the
job services offices were in darker space in the building's rear.
When the state offices first moved in, he remembers there being a
roller rink on the second floor, quiet in the morning, but
decidedly noisy in the afternoon. After the roller rink moved out,
the second level was converted to office space. He believes Henry
Veghte owned 173 West St., renting it to the state until selling it
to the post office.