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 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, for some reason it may have been later removed from the register.
Well known around and beyond Vermont
Dog Team Tavern 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.
The Dog Team Tavern was originally constructed by Sir Wilfred and Lady Anne Grenfell in the 1920s. The building was originally a mission home established by Grenfell and his wife in 1931. The Dog Team Tavern was established in 1936 as a tea house, selling crafts and gifts from Newfoundland and Labrador. Earlier that year, Wilfred and Lady Anne retired to Charlotte, Vermont, where they chose to build another house. In 1934, they opened a Dog Team Tea House in nearby Ferrisburg.
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 was sold again to Andrew Golbert of Burlington, VT. Later in 1987, the property was sold to 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 a possible explosion and flames, with the fire burning the tavern totally to the ground, beyond saving by firefighters at the scene. Reports indicated that the owner of the restaurant may have intentionally burned down the premises, most likely due to 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. At the time, 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? Many questions surrounding his death have not been discovered to this day.
Is the Dog Team Tavern location haunted?
These days, nothing remains of the Dog Team Tavern. Yet, the Addison County Ghost Hunters decided to investigate. It would seem that like the fire, nothing much was left other than a few curious session recordings.
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.