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Town’s oldest tavern burns down


The Richardson Tavern Burlington MA


The Daily Times and Chronicle, Tuesday, February 17, 1981

Burlington Past and Present, by John E. Fogelberg
(Article # 087)

Town’s oldest tavern

The fire was discovered by Mrs. Isaac Bernstein. Already it had a good start in the ell to the rear of the house. Her screams aroused her husband, who was asleep in one of the bedrooms on the second floor.

Stopping to pull on only a pair of pants he went to investigate and almost found himself trapped in that ell as the fire spread to the stairway. Since that stair was now the only way out, he plunged down through smoke and flame burning himself severely about the arms, head and face. With his wife leading the way, the pair stumbled to the store of Harry Woods where a call was placed to both the Lexington and Burlington fire departments.

Isaac was bundled up in old clothes and taken to Lexington for medical treatment. When the local firemen arrived on the scene that bitterly cold day in January 1938, they had to chop a hole in the ice of the pond some 2,500 feet away to get water. Their chemicals gave out before that was accomplished, and then the water pump froze.

Meanwhile the Lexington pumper had arrived and laid a line from the pond on Adams Street where men had started cutting ice that morning, but found they had to borrow hose from Burlington to reach the blaze. By the time the two streams of water got going, the fire had gained too much headway to be contained. Ted Parkhurst, then a Burlington fire captain, using a smoke mask, made two attempts to enter the burning building to save some of Mrs. Bernstein’s personal belongings but was driven out each time by smoke and intense heat. Firemen and onlookers could do little more than watch the place burn.

Thus did Bernstein’s “Red Dog Inn,” which did such a brisk business at the corner of Adams Street when the town was “wet,” and did much the same business as “Ye Old Turnpike Inn” later when the town went “dry,” end its days in a burst of pyrotechnics.

Believed to have been built prior to the Revolution by the Locke family, its early history is vague because much of what is known about the house is associated with the Turnpike, a road that did not go through town until 1811. It then became a tavern on that road remembered until the turn of this century as “The Richardson Tavern.”

The first mention of the house in the Burlington records occurs in 1835, when somebody by the name of Blaisdell petitioned the town to make a road “commencing at a point near the house that was Mr. Amos Hill’s Tavern on the Middlesex Turnpike.” Another reference: ” . . . beginning at the Middlesex Turnpike one rod from the easterly end of the tavern now owned by William P. Gibbs.” That road is Adams St.

  • Gibbs evidently had trouble paying his debts because a lien on the property went to the Town of Burlington in 1837 for the sum of $332, which represented some sort of an agreement “subject to right of Equity and redemption.”
  • The property was deeded to Franklin Richardson in 1841.
  • Amos Richardson deeded the farm to “William Cumston of Burlington, Pianoforte manufacturer” in 1853. In 1860 Cumston is not only assessed for the Richardson Tavern and farm but for all the property and mills around Woods Corner.
  • In 1870 Fernald E. Ham bought that part of the Cumston estate which comprised the two parcels of the farm originally owned by Amos Hill. This contained 15 plus acres with the house and barn and another 10 plus acres.
  • By 1910 the Ham farm, run by Fernald and his son George, was one of the best in town. Ham was assessed then for the original 25 acres plus 23 more, as well as the tavern house, a barn, grain house, squash house, hen house and milk house. His pride and joy was an excellent dairy based on the 35 or more pure-bred Holstein cattle he kept there.
  • George Elliot Ham sold the old farm to Warren H. Dunning in 1910 who worked the old farm for 13 more years before selling it to Jacob Bernstein in 1923.
  • Isaac turned the old tavern into a restaurant and nightclub which advertised weekend entertainment as the “Red Dog Inn.”

One can still get food and drink served at the now busy corner of Adams Street and the Middlesex Turnpike, for a Burger King building stands about where the old Richardson Tavern once stood. But to get the sort of entertainment once served by the Red Dog, one will have to go elsewhere.