July 20, 2024
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Haunted Vermont, Folklore & much more…

The Dog Team Tavern’s Tragic and Haunting History

Dog Team Tavern

As you drive through New Haven, VT, just about 4 miles north of Middlebury, you may notice a sign that leads to Dog Team Road, behind the Lester Farm Market, just off busy Rte 7, across from a Maplefields and the New Haven United Church. Although that won’t mean much to the average person driving by on a quiet summer day, for locals and many others, the location was once famous, a well-known restaurant called the Dog Team Tavern.

The Dog Team Tavern in New Haven, Vermont was a historic landmark

It burned down in 2006, leaving behind a rich history and a legacy that continues to captivate the imagination of Vermont historians and paranormal enthusiasts to this day.

Built in the late 1700s, the tavern was a popular stopover for travelers and locals alike, serving as a hub for commerce and socialization in the region. Over the years, the tavern changed hands multiple times and underwent several renovations to accommodate changing needs.

The Vermont country style, rustic eatery, was a very well-known local landmark and gathering place, famous for its generous portion sizes and famous “Dog Team Tavern sticky buns”, which always accompanied each meal when you arrived. The restaurant was a hit with locals, vacationers and students from nearby Middlebury College. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 it may have been removed later on from the register.

Well known around and beyond Vermont

Dog Team Tavern’s legendary food, ambiance and reputation extended from all around Vermont to urban areas. Celebrities such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Robert Frost, Charles Lawton, Neil Diamond, Michael Eisner and many more enjoyed their meals at the tavern.

Sir Wilfred and Lady Anne Grenfell originally constructed the Dog Team Tavern in the 1920s. The building was originally a mission home established by Grenfell and his wife in 1931. They established the Dog Team Tavern in 1936 as a teahouse, selling crafts and gifts from Newfoundland and Labrador. Earlier that year, Wilfred and Lady Anne retired to Charlotte, Vermont, where they built another house. In 1934, they opened a Dog Team Tea House in nearby Ferrisburgh.

In 1946, Eben and Catherine Joy purchased the Dog Team Tavern, opening it as a Vermont county inn and restaurant, later adding on a bar after obtaining a liquor license for the Town of New Haven. Many antique furnishings and knickknacks that adorned the building remnants originated from the Grenfells’ collection, which included hand-hooked mats showing native life in the far polar North, such as dog teams, icebergs and polar bears.

In 1978, the property sold again to Andrew Golbert of Burlington, VT. Later in 1987, the property was purchased by Christopher Hesslink and Robert Mahoney. Mahoney left the business around 1996 or 1997.

On September 1, 2006 an early morning fire tragically destroyed the Dog Team Tavern

Christopher Hesslink reorganized the business and continued until it burned down on September 1, 2006. Around 2:30 am, neighbors reported an explosion and flames, with the fire burning the totally to the ground, beyond saving by firefighters at the scene. Reports showed that the owner of the restaurant may have intentionally burned down the premises, most likely because of an affair with a former employee.

Hesslink's body was found inside with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. His death was determined to be a suicide, and the fire is said to have been purposefully set. Oddly enough, there seemed to be more questions than answers about what had occurred.

Friends of Hesslink who had known him for a longtime insisted that he would never have committed suicide. What could have caused him to commit suicide, leaving his two well loved dogs awaiting him outside in his truck? We have not discovered many questions surrounding his death to this day.

Is the Dog Team Tavern location haunted?

Despite its many transformations, the Dog Team Tavern remained a beloved fixture in the community until it burned down in 2006. While the cause of the fire remains unknown, the tragic loss of this historic building has not stopped people from seeking out the paranormal mysteries that some say still linger on the site.

Paranormal investigations have taken place at the former Dog Team Tavern, with some investigators claiming to have encountered ghostly apparitions and other strange phenomena.

Ghosts and rumors of haunting activity

One of the most intriguing stories surrounding the Dog Team Tavern involves a ghostly figure that has been seen wandering the grounds at night. According to witnesses, the figure appears to be that of a tall man wearing a top hat and carrying a cane. Some speculate that this may be the ghost of one of the tavern's former owners or a well-to-do patron who frequented the establishment.

Other reports of paranormal activity at the former Dog Team Tavern site include disembodied voices, sudden temperature drops, and unexplained noises. Some visitors have even reported feeling as though they are being watched by an unseen presence, while others claim to have had objects move or levitate in their presence.

These days, nothing remains of the Dog Team Tavern. Yet, the Addison County Ghost Hunters investigated. It would seem that, like the fire, it left nothing, other than a few curious session recordings.

For more info about the Dog Team Tavern check out this Facebook Group and this Facebook Page.

Whether or not there is any truth to the claims of ghostly activity at the site, there is no denying the enduring legacy of this historic landmark and the important role it played in the history of New Haven, Vermont.

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Dog Team Tavern Sticky Buns

  • 1 cup hot potatoes, mashed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, (1 stick, cut into chunks )
  • 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt

When this mix has cooled a bit add:

  • 1 pkg. instant yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/2 cups potatoes water( if cooking water doesn't yield enough supplement with like warm tap water to make measurement) Stir well.

7 cups flour
Knead dough (with hook or by hand)until smooth and somewhat satiny. Refrigerate overnight or let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk.

Roll out into a rectangle about 9 x 13.

Spread with cinnamon and sugar mix and (raisins if desired). Roll up into a log and seal edges. Cut into 1/2 inch slices using plain dental floss or sharp knife

Prepare pans by spreading generously with butter. Sprinkle with light brown sugar to about 1/4 inch deep. Sprinkle with chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans). Using a spray bottle with a fine mist, spray with fresh water till lightly moistened. Place cut rolls on top and let rise till double.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake 20 – 30 minutes.

Carefully tip (syrup in bottom of pan is extremely hot) out into a serving platter or sheet of aluminum foil.

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