Help sought to fund repairs at historic Dover church
Ron Bricker and Joe Gibbs hold a binder that details some of the church history as well as a poster highlighting a few of the historic photos of the Dover Community Church. Once planned as summer home of a Bonner County mill owner, the building was converted into a church after being floated upriver from Laclede to Dover.
(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER)
A photo of the Dover Community Church as it looks today. Church officials are working to replace some of the cedar bark siding and are hoping someone in the community can help them with the project.
A photo of one of the first community picnics held at the historic Dover church.
A photo of one of an estimated 50-plus buildings barged from Laclede to Dover by A.C. White after his Laclede mill burned down in August 1922.
A photo of the A.C. White mill in Laclede before it was destroyed in an August 1922 fire.
Staff Writer | March 19, 2023 1:00 AM
It's been almost 100 years since Dover Community Church was floated upriver from Laclede.
Now the former summer cottage that found religion is showing signs of age. Some of its unique cedar bark shingles are in poor shape, and the foundation needs some work. While some of the work has been done, more remains, said church members Ron Bricker and Joe Gibbs.
"So that pretty much depleted our bank account and we still have other work to do," Bricker said.
The church's pastor, Dan York, was talking to fellow clergymen at a weekly get-together. He asked for prayers and ideas. Soon, Bricker and Gibbs said, one of the pastors offered help with creating a GoFundMe page — found at bit.ly/3Z0a39E — to share word of the church's dilemma.
"You know that the bell in that church has run every Sunday for 100 years," Gibbs said. "And our goal is that it rings for another 100 years."
The pair said they hope to raise enough money for the repairs so that the church continues to be a bridge from the community's past into its future. And that, they added, means continuing the foundation work and finding new cedar bark for the siding.
While they have a source for the bark, the process to strip it from the trees in the spring is hard and labor-intensive. While there are several shingle mills in the area, the process used at the mills renders the bark unusable by the church for its siding.
"We're between a rock and a hard place there," Bricker said. "And because it's on a national registry with Idaho State Heritage, they want that kept because it's what makes that building unique."
Originally built more than 100 years ago as the summer home of mill owner A.C. White, the building was gifted to the community after it was floated to Dover. A younger brother had recently graduated from seminary and White had an idea.
"He needed a church and Dover needed a church," Bricker said.
A prominent figure in the region's timber industry, church history notes he moved to Laclede in 1909 where he opened the mill. It grew to include a planer, a door factory, and more before being gutted by fire in August 1922.
While residents hoped he'd rebuild the Laclede Mill, White instead bought the defunct Dover Lumber Mill and made plans to move his business upriver.
"What was a blow to one town was a boon to the other," according to the church history. "White was soon hiring men to remodel the mill and build dry kilns and a new sash and door factory, the largest in the Inland Empire and the only one in North Idaho."
Realizing there was a need for housing, he barged what buildings survived the fire — complete with furnishings inside — upriver. Idaho Heritage Trust and church documents note that after arriving in Dover, the buildings were loaded onto skids and transported to their new sites.
"This was no ordinary move, however, for all of the buildings, including an 80-by-200 foot warehouse were transported to their new sites by barges on the Pend Oreille River," a church history reports. "'The American Lumberman' called the move 'an industrial feat of the first magnitude' and the local papers reported that the move was accomplished without even damage to the plaster. Indeed, it was noted that before the jacks could be let down, the families were moved in and smoke was coming out of the chimneys."
Designed by one of Spokane's leading architectural firms, the one-story H-shaped was originally to be White's eight-room summer home. However, when the time came to barge their summer cottage to Dover, White and his family decided to donate the building to the community as a church.
The building is unique, adorned with cedar bark siding, laid vertically over shiplap sub-siding, giving a rustic appearance, according to church documents.
"While unusual for a church building, these rustic touches would have been entirely appropriate for the building's intended use as a summer cottage for a well-to-do lumberman," according to the church history.
The home, moved to its new site in several sections, was never used by the White family as a summer home. Not quite complete at the time of the fire, they decided they didn't need it and commissioned the same architectural firm to transform the building into a church, according to church documents.
The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Idaho Heritage Trust, recognizing its unique place in Dover's history. Various homes from the move were renovated or barged further upriver to Sandpoint, IHT officials said on the organization's website.
Of the 50-some buildings barged upriver to Dover, the church is the last surviving building that retains its original character and style, church and IHT officials said.
"The church is the only one of the original public buildings extant; the store, school, and pool hall are gone, the post office moved up to the highway, and the fire station replaced with a new metal building," church officials note in the history. "The houses no longer form a cohesive group representative of the ones moved from Laclede … the Dover church remains as the lone symbol of a town and time that few people remember today."
A 100th-anniversary celebration of the church's journey from Laclede to Dover will be held July 22-23. Activities include a boat parade from the old mill site to Dover, a walk to the church and community hall, a barbecue and other family-friendly activities.
Gibbs and Bricker said they are excited by the plans and hope others — both new and long-time residents — visit and find their new church home. Originally part of the Baptist Church denomination, Dover Community Church is now denominational.
They are proud that the church has been a place of worship for almost 100 years. Proud that, while there have been times the congregation has dwindled in size, or those attended have grown older, the church is there for all to worship, Bricker said.
"We've been a very faithful people," he said, adding the church and the community hall form the heart of the community.
Help also is sought to help pay for the celebration. Donations can be sent to: the City of Dover, Box 115, Dover ID, 83825-0115; write "100-year celebration" in the memo section.
Anyone interested in helping with the renovations, or the community celebration, can call Bricker at 509-720-1886 or 208-265-9695, or Gibbs at 208-946-8667.
Donations also can be made on the church's GoFundMe page, located online at bit.ly/3Z0a39E.