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News & Press: Community Spotlights

AIC Shines Its Community Spotlight on Dover

Friday, June 30, 2017  
Posted by: Gay Dawn Oyler
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Dover City Hall

Dover overlooks the northwestern end of Lake Pend Oreille as it blends into the lake’s outlet, the Pend Oreille River. The city is elevated because of the reservoir created by the hydroelectric Albeni Falls Dam, located 20 miles downriver between Priest River and Old Town on the Idaho/Washington border.

The Kaniksu National Forest comes within a few miles of Dover except to the east where the city’s boundary abuts Sandpoint.

Historic Tidbits

For centuries, the Kalispell Indians hunted and fished in the fast-flowing Pend Oreille River in the area of what is now Dover.

In 1866 a steamboat called the Mary Moody began ferrying trappers, miners and their gear across and around Lake Pend Oreille.

In 1883 the Northern Pacific Railroad completed a rail line from Wallula, Washington, to Missoula, Montana. The railroad passed through the future city of Dover, reaching Sandpoint in 1881. From Sandpoint it continued along the northern and eastern shore of Lake Pend Oreille before turning east near what is now Clark Fork to Montana.

The availability of railroad transportation encouraged development of sawmills around the lake. The Sand Point Lumber Company, and its successor the Humbird Lumber Company, became the largest employer in the area.

In 1907 the Dover Lumber Company opened a sawmill, planer and electrical power plant along the northern banks of the Pend Oreille River, four miles west of Sandpoint. On February 1, 1908, the company president, O.S. Welty, platted a town next to the mill that he initially named Welty. A few years later, to avoid confusion, they changed the town’s name to Dover.

In 1921 the A.C. White Lumber Mill in Laclede, 11 miles down-river from Dover, burned. The town—consisting of over 40 homes, church and general store—survived. However, without the mill, these structures had little value.

Rather than rebuild at Laclede, A.C. White purchased the Dover Lumber Mill. He then contracted with a local boat company working on Lake Pend Oreille, loaded the Laclede buildings on barges and set them up at Dover.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the sawmill avoided shutting down by paying workers with company tokens redeemable at the company’s general store.

In 1955 the Army Corps of Engineers completed construction of the 90-foot-high, 775-foot-wide, 200-million-kilowatt-hour hydroelectric Albeni Falls Dam. The reservoir created by the dam raised the water level of the river to that of Lake Pend Oreille.

By the 1980s the town’s municipal water system was failing state environmental standards.

In 1987 the City of Sandpoint moved to annex the unincorporated community of Dover. The potential annexation sparked opposition from Dover residents who were fearful they would pay higher taxes without receiving additional services, including an improved water system.

On July 26, 1988, following a door-to-door petition signing campaign, the Bonner County Commissioners approved the incorporation of Dover. The new mayor and city council almost immediately called for a bond election to bring the city’s municipal water system into compliance with state environmental rules and law and embarked on an aggressive annexation program of their own.

Sawmill Town

Dover began as a company town built to meet the needs of the sawmill’s workers. For decades, the mill underpinned the community’s economy. However, in 1989 following multiple changes in ownership and changes in federal regulations restricting timber harvests on federal lands, the sawmill shut down. The mill closure eliminated about 100 jobs. It was a devastating blow to the small community. In 1992 the owners of the mill site cleared the land and built a housing development.

Amenities and Attractions Today

The Dover city limits consists of 1,864 acres. It has 12 miles of bike and pedestrian trails; 3,300 feet of public beach access; and 10 acres of public parks; as well as many acres devoted to wetland parks.

The city has several historic buildings. The church, community hall and about 10 of the original homes either moved from Laclede or constructed around 1921 have been preserved and maintained. They are nostalgic witnesses to days when sawmills dominated the area’s economy.

Most city residents look to Sandpoint for their employment, shopping, healthcare and urban recreation.

Round Lake State Park is located 14 miles south. This 142-acre forested park surrounds the 58-acre Round Lake. The 4,000-acre Farragut State Park lies 34 miles south at the base of Lake Pend Oreille.

The Wild Horse Trail Scenic Byway starts in Sandpoint and heads north along the eastern side of the Selkirk Mountains. Anciently, the Kootenai Indians followed this historic path to their fishing grounds at Lake Pend Oreille.

The Pend Oreille Scenic Byway begins at the intersection of Highways 95 and 200 on the north end of Sandpoint and follows Highway 200 around the eastern side of the lake and on to the Montana state line.

The Panhandle Historic Rivers Passage begins at the Washington state line and follows the Pend Oreille River through Dover to its end at Sandpoint.

Thirty miles south is Silverwood Theme Park and over 50 amusement rides.

Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort lies 15 miles north. The ski resort has an average snowfall of 300 inches, 67 ski runs, 2 ski lifts, cross-country ski trails, snowmobiling and sleigh rides. Facilities include a lodge, condominiums and a variety of retail stores.

Many outdoor enthusiasts enjoy boating, water skiing and fishing on the river that forms the city’s southern boundary. Hunting, camping, hiking and fishing are available in the nearby Kaniksu National Forest.


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