“We’re (in New Haven) on the site of what used to be the Dog Team Tavern; we’re on (Dog Team) Road,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “As most viewers know, it tragically burned back in 2006, but we’re here to talk about the early history of this tavern.
“It all connects to a man named Sir Wilfred Grenfell,” Perkins continued. “And there are many, many books and movies and documentaries that you can go learn about his life (from). He was a doctor — English — and worked for the British (Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen), and while doing that, he learned about the fisherman of Newfoundland and Labrador. We’re talking 1890s now, early 20th century, and it was a rough place; it was poor. He individually raised the money to go out and start providing (health care) services and realized that it was going to use so much more than he could provide — and more than the Fishermen’s Mission could provide — so he started raising (more) money himself.
“Fast-forward; he married a woman from the United States, Lady Anne Grenfell,” Perkins said. “Her family had a connection to Vermont — her mother actually lived in Burlington for a few years — and so they bought a summer home in Charlotte, near Cedar Beach, and summered here. While they were doing that, they realized ‘well, this could be a home base for fundraising’, and so they built what we came to know as the Dog Team Tavern in New Haven.
“This was a way of philanthropy that was very popular in the early 20th century,” Perkins added. “They asked, ‘OK; if people are fishing all summer long, what are they doing in the winter? Let’s create an industry, a hand-craft industry where we can sell the goods, all run by volunteers’. Folks would come through; they would get tea, maybe dinner, but really it was a showroom for these goods.”
“You mentioned what we would consider a hooked rug as one of the items — the one that’s right in front of you,” Mike Hoey said.
“Yeah, and I think that’s what people associate with Grenfell Industries the most, the rugs or the mats (sometimes made from donated and repurposed silk stockings),” Perkins noted. “A lot of them hung in the Dog Team, and I think folks who went and had dinner at the Dog Team anytime up until when it burned would have remembered seeing a lot of these mats. It’s a map of Newfoundland (on this one), so you see, here’s the island of Newfoundland and then part of Labrador. And you can still find these; you can still buy them; they’re in museums all over the country.
“They had weaving shops where they made fabric, and that’s what this coat is made out of,” Perkins pointed out. “It’s actually called a Grenfell weave or a Grenfell fabric, named after the shop, and it’s a very tightly-woven fabric to stop that Arctic wind. It wasn’t just textiles, but also carving as well, so I’ve got a small soapstone carved Inuit.
“His wife, Lady Anne, died in 1938,” Perkins continued. “(Wilfred Grenfell) retired to Vermont and he lived his last few years here, and he died in Charlotte (in 1940), though his ashes are in St. Andrew up in Newfoundland. The tavern carried on through World War II, and at that point, the idea of raising money through tea rooms and things like that started to go down, so the tavern was sold to a family — the Joy family — who owned it for many years. Then, it went through a series of owners as a more traditional restaurant.”
“A great many people in our coverage area will, no doubt, have fond memories of it,” Hoey said. “Steve, if anybody wishes to relive those, what materials or ways do all of you at the Historical Society have that they might be able to use?”
“We have a lot of documents relating to the Grenfells and the early time of the Dog Team Tavern, and so you can come visit our library,” Perkins replied. “We’ve got lots of books on (Wilfred) Grenfell, on his life, on the fundraising and these things here.”