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Dog Team Tavern destroyed by fire, body found
Addison Independent ^ | September 1, 2006

Posted on 09/01/2006 4:52:48 PM PDT by Shermy

NEW HAVEN — Fire destroyed the Dog Team Tavern, an Addison County landmark, early Friday morning.

Late Friday afternoon officials said they had pulled the remains of one human body from the burned building. New Haven Fire Chief Mike Dykstra said police had not identified the body and didn’t know when identification would take place.

As firefighters pulled down the charred remains of the tavern, the Vermont State Police Arson Investigation Unit was on scene combing through debris for clues to the fire’s origin.

Officials said they hadn’t determined the cause of the fire as of late Friday afternoon. Investigators had been inside the burned out remains of the tavern but hadn’t come to any conclusions. They said they wanted to bring in dogs to sniff for accelerants or human remains but that it was too dangerous for the dogs.

As of late Friday, authorities had not been able to contact the historic restaurant’s owner, Christopher Hesslink, who has a residence in Monkton but also had an apartment above the tavern. Dykstra said Hesslink was supposed to be away on a fishing trip and his truck was found in the parking lot of the building with his dogs waiting inside the vehicle.

“We’re still pretty concerned, we haven’t found him yet,” Dykstra said early on Friday morning.

Neighbors were awoken by an explosion in the building and called 911 at about 2:25 a.m. Friday. Dykstra said the fire was surely already blazing at that point and the explosion was likely caused by a backdraft or a propane leak.

Ten area fire departments responded to the alarm, providing about 70 firefighters and upwards of two dozen fire trucks to battle the blaze. Dykstra said the fire was so intense that there was no way firefighters could get inside the building, but instead dumped water on the conflagration from the outside.

“We used a lot of external attack,” Dykstra said. “We had about 70 people, and that still wasn’t enough.”

Firefighters finally got the fire under control by about 6 a.m., when they managed to get inside to douse the remaining flames. The New Haven fire chief said it was the largest fire he had been to in years.

Authorities on Friday morning were not sure if anyone was inside the building when it burned down but had not ruled out the possibility.

Hesslink was in the news recently when the 42-year-old restaurateur pleaded no contest to a charge of “prohibited acts.” Hesslink had been facing a trial on a felony charge of sexual assault stemming from an incident with a 16-year-old Dog Team hostess, when he pled to the lesser charge in a July 21 Addison County District Court hearing.

Hesslink was sentenced to pay a $100 fine and make a $1,000 contribution to an organization that deals with sexual assault, but he did not face probation or jail time.

Police said they hadn’t made any connection between Hesslink’s criminal record and the fire but said that was part of their investigation.

“We’re looking into that,” said Vermont State Police Det. Lt. Tim Oliver on Friday afternoon. “We’ve got to take all the evidence we have and go from there. Right now it’s too early for us to make a determination.”

Middlebury attorney Robert Keiner, who represented Hesslink in the court case, said on Friday that he had worked closely with Hesslink for more than a year and they had become friends. As news of the fire spread on Friday he rushed to the scene on Dog Team Road to get more information.

“Everybody is kind of holding their breath right now,” Keiner said on Friday morning. “I know he’s a fisherman and I know he goes on fishing trips and I hope he’s on one right now.”

John Fuller, a friend of Hesslink’s for more than 20 years, was at the scene on Friday to see what he could find out about the fire and his friend. Fuller said Hesslink has donated time and money to many area causes, such as Field Days.

“That’s why everybody likes him,” Fuller said. “This is a shock.”


The Dog Team Tavern was built during the 1920s at the request of Lady Anne Grenfell, wife of the famous doctor and missionary, Sir Wilfred Grenfell. The Grenfells originally operated the home as a teahouse, but also used the building as a venue from which to sell handicrafts from Labrador and Newfoundland, Canada, to raise money for the needy people in that region.

Eben and Catherine Joy acquired the property in 1946, and quickly transformed it into a country inn and restaurant. It earned a wide following for its hearty food — including its popular sticky buns and spinning relish wheel — and the many antique furnishings and knickknacks that adorned the building. Among those antiques were some remnants from the Grenfells’ collection, including hand-hooked mats depicting native life in the far North, such as dog teams, icebergs and polar bears.

During its history, the Dog Team Tavern served dinner to such luminaries as poet Robert Frost, actor Charles Lawton and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Andy Golbert, now of Essex, acquired the Dog Team Tavern from the Joys in 1978. One of Golbert’s Middlebury friends informed him of the fire early Friday morning.

“It was like getting a kick in the stomach,” said Golbert, who sold the property to Chris Hesslink and Robert Mahoney in 1987. “It’s still a part of me.”

Golbert noted that community has not only lost an important business, but a significant historic structure, as well. The Dog Team Tavern was a lynchpin of Brooksville, a storied hamlet off Dog Team Road in New Haven.

He also lamented the loss of all the antiques and folk art within the tavern building.

“It’s too bad that all of that is now up in smoke,” Golbert said.

TOPICS: Local News
KEYWORDS: dogteamtavern; vermont

1 posted on 09/01/2006 4:52:49 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: Shermy

The only thing constant in life is change.

2 posted on 09/01/2006 4:54:50 PM PDT by battlegearboat
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To: battlegearboat

and compound interest.

3 posted on 09/01/2006 4:55:53 PM PDT by the invisib1e hand (*speechless*)
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To: the invisib1e hand

which just gives you more change.

4 posted on 09/01/2006 4:56:14 PM PDT by the invisib1e hand (*speechless*)
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To: battlegearboat
I guess that's the Last of the Dog Team.

Literary reference.

5 posted on 09/01/2006 4:58:59 PM PDT by humblegunner (If you're gonna die, die with your boots on.)
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To: battlegearboat

and death

6 posted on 09/01/2006 5:06:41 PM PDT by pipecorp ( muhammed .....................8(_o_)8 .................p b & j mercy is wasted on the merciless.)
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To: Shermy

Quaint place. I've eaten there a number of times

7 posted on 09/01/2006 5:08:47 PM PDT by Vermonter
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To: Shermy
Sticky Buns recipe

8 posted on 09/01/2006 5:17:45 PM PDT by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ......Help the "Pendleton 8' and families --
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To: Straight Vermonter


9 posted on 09/01/2006 5:28:05 PM PDT by Vermonter
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To: Vermonter
I didn't like that they asked you to order before you sat down.


10 posted on 09/01/2006 5:59:45 PM PDT by ml/nj
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To: ml/nj

I'd forgotten about that. Guess it was to speed things up. There could be quite a wait at times

11 posted on 09/01/2006 6:02:34 PM PDT by Vermonter
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To: Shermy

My God--that was one of my favorite restaurants. I live in the Boston area but made it a point to eat there whenever I visited Burlington/Middlebury. Prayers for the soul of the person whose body was found, and his/her relatives. (I need to see if there are further details on the Burlington Free Press
website, etc. Maybe the Burl TV stations' sites, too.)

I think I read about it on Mobil Travel Guide, and/or heard
it talked about on "Pat Whitley Restaurant Show". Had gone there since 1990 or so, maybe even slightly earlier. "Hang
your hat inside our door", as their ads read. (Once or twice I'd be up there for my birthday in Feb. and they were having an "Anniversary Week" where they had 1970 prices. $8.99 for
a prime rib dinner, or something like that!)

You'd go in and give them your order (prime rib usually for
me) then sit in a plush parlor. Had to go to the men's room?
Well there was the world's smallest men's room on the main floor :) (or a much bigger one upstairs)

You'd get a spinning relish wheel, salad, and bread. "Are you familiar with our sticky buns?" After a nice dinner, you'd go out back to a sitting area and relax by the brook that ran past...

Benches outside read VERMONT DEMOCRATS and VERMONT
REPUBLICANS (and yes, surprisingly, they were the same
size despite the political leanings of the state...)

12 posted on 09/02/2006 5:41:50 PM PDT by raccoonradio
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To: ml/nj

>>I didn't like that they asked you to order before you sat down.

Yes kind of weird...not like most places. they had their reasons. That little blackboard with the entrees listed, along with appetizers (I always got VT apple cider). If you got there at the wrong time it could be a LONG wait. Usually not bad for me; I could always read a paper while waiting. For
awhile they used to do lunch AND dinner during the summer,
but then it went back to dinner only Mon-Sat., but open at noon (I think) on Sundays.

13 posted on 09/02/2006 5:50:20 PM PDT by raccoonradio
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To: Shermy
Burlington Free Press article

NEW HAVEN -- Police suspect Dog Team Tavern owner Christopher Hesslink, 42, was killed when the landmark restaurant burned early Friday morning in a fire police are calling suspicious. The fire destroyed the 60-year-old restaurant located on quiet Dog Team Road and known for its sticky buns, ample portions and spinning relish wheel. (snip)

At about 4:20 p.m., a body was found to the right of the fireplace in the lobby of the restaurant. Vermont State Police Detective Lt. Tim Oliver said the body would be brought to the state's chief medical examiner's office for an autopsy and identification. Asked whether he believed the body was Hesslink's, Oliver said, "Nobody else is missing, so that's what we're led to believe."

Police said in a statement Friday night that Hesslink was "last seen in the building and has not been accounted for at this time."

14 posted on 09/02/2006 5:54:00 PM PDT by raccoonradio
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To: Shermy

more on Hesslink, from BFPress

Dog Team Tavern owner pleads no contest to sex charge

Published: Saturday, July 29, 2006
By John Briggs
Free Press Staff Writer

Christopher Hesslink, 42, of Monkton, the owner of the Dog Team Tavern in New Haven, pleaded no contest July 21 to a misdemeanor sex charge involving a former employee.

Hesslink was originally charged with sexual assault, a felony, but the Attorney General's Office, which prosecuted the case, unexpectedly reduced the charge to a single misdemeanor count of lewdness in return for Hesslink's plea. He was fined $100 and instructed by District Court Judge Matthew Katz to donate $1,000 to a community organization involved with sexual assault issues. A $15 "victim's restitution" charge was also imposed.

The girl who made the complaint said she was assaulted May 14, 2005. The Free Press does not identify victims in sexual assault cases.

She told state police that Hesslink assaulted her in the tavern's upstairs office at about 9:45 p.m. as she sat on the floor counting out the night's receipts, according to an affidavit. She said Hesslink pushed her to the floor, straddled her, and assaulted her. When she began screaming, she said, Hesslink "looked surprised at her face" and allowed her to leave, the affidavit said.

Hesslink denied to police that he had assaulted the girl, though he admitted earlier sexual contact with her that he described as consensual but which stopped short of intercourse.

Hesslink, speaking by phone from the Dog Team Tavern, said he was glad the case was over but was critical of prosecutors and the police investigation.

"They don't care what happens to people," he said. "I don't think they look objectively at a case. There was no physical evidence -- just the word of one person."

Robert Keiner, Hesslink's Middlebury attorney, said Hesslink's defense "all along, was that it didn't happen, period."

15 posted on 09/02/2006 9:20:52 PM PDT by raccoonradio
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To: raccoonradio

Thanks for the updates.

Hoping this is just an accident...

16 posted on 09/02/2006 11:11:41 PM PDT by Shermy (A louder mime)
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To: Shermy

Yes...checked WCAX-TV site (Hey, I live
200 miles away!) and it said that while no further news
was available including ID of the body, there WAS an obit
for him in Burl. Free Press. Also am hoping that this was an accident--maybe he was staying upstairs--place caught on fire,
and he died of smoke inhalation while trying to escape (I guess
there was an explosion later--propane tanks or something)...
I would hope it wasn't some kind of large-scale suicide for him.

17 posted on 09/03/2006 8:45:53 PM PDT by raccoonradio
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To: Shermy reports that it was indeed Hesslink whose body was found in the ruins of the DTT:

>> NEW HAVEN, Vt. -- A body found in the ruins of the Dog Team Tavern has been positively identified as that of its owner, authorities said Tuesday.
Christopher Hesslink, 42, of Monkton, perished early Friday when the historic country inn burned down in an overnight fire of suspicious origin. Firefighters and rescue crews spent most of the day searching the rubble for his body after finding his truck outside, with his two dogs in it.

18 posted on 09/05/2006 1:44:53 PM PDT by raccoonradio
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To: raccoonradio; Vermonter; NormsRevenge
Dog Team owner’s death ruled suicide

Published: Friday, December 1, 2006

NEW HAVEN — Christopher Hesslink, owner of the Dog Team Tavern, committed suicide on Sept. 1 when the iconic restaurant burned to the ground, according to the deputy chief medical examiner.

The Addison County State’s Attorney’s Office released a statement Friday afternoon that Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen P. Adams found Hesslink, 42, had “head trauma consistent with a gunshot wound.” A shotgun was found beside his body, according to the statement, which also said Hesslink’s blood alcohol content was approximately 50 percent over the legal limit.

The well-known Dog Team Tavern was destroyed Sept. 1 when a fire ripped through the historic building on Dog Team Road in New Haven. Hesslink’s body wasn’t found until more than 12 hours after the fire broke out. Little public information had been provided about Hesslink’s death until Friday.

Addison County State’s Attorney John Quinn said he hasn’t seen an official report about how the fire was started, but given the suicide ruling, it seems likely that the fire will be ruled an arson or accidental.

...more at link

19 posted on 12/19/2006 1:49:04 PM PST by Shermy
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To: Shermy

Being from Southern California, I wasn't able to eat there very often, but the Dog Team Tavern was one of my favorite eateries in that part of the country.

Other good restaurants in the area include Fire and Ice and Mr. Up's in Middlebury and Junior's, an Italian restaurant, in Colchester.

20 posted on 12/27/2006 6:55:59 AM PST by Fiji Hill
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