Salveni Cardinal
by Tom Beardsley and Pete Zizka


(By Tom Beardsley and Pete Zizka) The name Salveni Cardinal is probably unknown in Willimantic today although his legacy to Willimantic was an impressive commercial building that once stood at the heart of "“Sodom”" on the northeast junction of Main Street and Ash Street. A little background….Willimantic's first cotton mill, was built in 1822 by a Rhode Islander named Perez Richmond. The mill was located adjacent to the Willimantic River in the western section of what is today Recreation Park and a small community grew up next to Richmond's mill. It soon boasted saloons and brothels. All this was too much for the moral residents of nearby Windham village, who referred to Richmond Town as worse than Sodom and Gomorrah. The area later became known as Wellesville in the 1840s, and eventually it grew into the eastern section of Willimantic -- but the name "Sodom" had become associated with the area. .“Sodom” constituted the entry into Willimantic from the east, and as the city expanded in the late 19th century, this crossroads section of “Sodom” became a vibrant commercial area. And it was here that the Hawthorne House Hotel sat. The Hawthorn House was listed as a "hotel" but was raided a few times because liquor was being sold there. During one raid in 1892, agents noticed a stair tread was loose as they were going up to the second floor. When the tread was taken off, nine  one-quart bottles of whiskey and thirty-five pint bottles of beer were found. The proprietor was arrested. He pleaded guilty, paid a fine and costs of $50 and said that "it was quite expensive business to sell liquor in Willimantic this year". Just before 1898, the Hawthorn House was bought by Joseph Caillouette who turned it into “a boarding house or hotel with a saloon accompaniment” and renamed it simply,  “The Hawthorn”. After the building was badly damaged by a fire in 1903, Caillouette and Joseph Delude, who became a partner in the business, tore it down and put up the building that became a saloon, package store and house. But Caillouette was later arrested several times for selling liquor to minors. Salveni Cardinal, a French Canadian carpenter, then bought the building and took over the Caillouette-Delude business. Cardinal was granted a saloon permit in November, 1909. The Cardinal Saloon soon became a center of French-Canadian social life for more than a decade. There was one episode, however, which resulted in the saloon being temporarily closed. Cardinal was sued by a patron who broke a kneecap while in the saloon. The patron claimed that Cardinal, ”threw him with considerable force down on the floor against some steam pipes, breaking his kneecap and when down on the floor, Cardinal kicked him in the ribs”. Cardinal then was able to come up with the cost of the attachment, $3,500, and the saloon reopened.  The saloon became so well known, that this section of "“Sodom”" was named "Cardinal Square." A highly popular lager beer among mill workers, in those pre-Prohibition days, was brewed in Providence, Rhode Island. The "Eagle Red Star Ale Pilsener Beer" sign was prominently displayed at the entrance to the Cardinal saloon. Another sign proudly announced "Eagle Ale and Lager, Providence." Salveni Cardinal proudly advertised his business as a fine purveyor of wholesale and retail wines, liquors and cigars. The 1919 Volstead Act introduced Prohibition, and the Cardinal Saloon at 3 Ash Street was forced to close its doors. The Cardinals continued to live there for many years. In 1934 Max Rabinowitz purchased the old saloon building, and in 1938 he opened the Max Rabinowitz & Sons Grocery Store. Perhaps the gods were not pleased that the historic saloon had become a grocery store, because it was badly flooded by the 1938 hurricane. Indeed, most of "“Sodom”" was underwater after the storm had hit. The Rabinowitz Grocery Store continued to operate out of the building until 1965. After the departure of various other occupants, including Cumberland Farms, the vacant building was torn down in 1992.


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