Originally formed by the City Council in March 1948, the Dover Housing Authority (DHA) was tasked with constructing homes for low-income families, with a preference toward families of returning World War II veterans.
“Five prominent local men” were chosen as the first DHA Board of Commissioners and by 1950 the Board through the Dover City Council had contracted with the Federal Housing and Home Finance Agency to reserve $102,000 for “slum clearance and urban development work”.
On June 21, 1952, after years of planning the ground-breaking of the first DHA property, Mineral Park, took place off Tolend Road
Replacing “shack housing, not fit for human habitation” and constructed in an area formerly known as “Shanty Town” and “Piano Box Village” (because of the large wooden boxes that once housed piano’s and were then used to construct homes), Dover’s newest family development, Mineral Park, opened up December 15, 1953, when the first six families moved in.
Welcoming the first residents to Mineral Park was long time Executive Director William McCann, Sr. who oversaw the construction of the family development as well as several early senior developments built by the DHA. Mr. McCann retired in 1976 and was replaced by M. Heinie Merrill.
During 1962 Whittier Park was constructed. A continuation of the family development built near Mineral Park, it added 60 more apartments to the complex, making the 184-unit Mineral and Whittier Park development complete.
The first DHA elderly sites were also constructed in 1962 at Niles Park and Union Court in 1964 the first DHA-owned high rise, Central Towers, was built off Henry Law Avenue.
In addition to building new homes for Dover’s elderly and low-income populations, the DHA was tasked with organizing Dover’s Urban Renewal project to rebuild the downtown.
For over twenty years, numerous meetings and studies showed that Dover’s downtown area was being choked off because of a lack of open space, “creeping blight” and a lack of parking.
By 1971 the DHA had developed an Urban Renewal plan that would remove dilapidated buildings, add new streets, a bridge, new business and apartment buildings and additional downtown parking.
For the next 9 years, Urban Renewal took much of the time of the DHA Executive Director and Commissioners who attended meetings, watched the progress of the project and tried to limit the cost overruns due to inflation and construction delays.
It was during Urban Renewal that the second DHA-owned elderly high rise building, Waldron Towers, was completed in 1976. Built along the Cocheco River, the newest site housed an additional 84 units for elderly residents.
In August 1979 Dover Mayor Jack Buckley was chosen to replace former DHA Executive Director M. Heinie Merrill and under his leadership the final touches of Urban Renewal were completed and two more elderly complexes were constructed by the DHA.
St John’s Apartments was unique in that an abandoned Methodist Church was renovated in 1982 and converted to 30 units of elderly housing and in 1984 Edgar W. Bois Terrace was built housing 20 units of additional senior apartments.
During the past 30 years the DHA has formed partnerships with several different agencies, the Dover Police Department, Strafford County Head Start, and local developers to better the Dover Community and its residents.
These partnerships have led to numerous HUD recognitions for resident services which have included a resident-run Laundromat business; a very successful neighborhood police liaison officer program; a DHA based Head Start building; a nationally recognized after school program based out of the DHA operated Seymour Osman Community Center; resident service coordinators for both the elderly and family developments and a Family Self Sufficiency Program.
Additional Dover Housing Authority history can be found in the book Strong Foundation for the Future: The History of the Dover, NH, Housing Authority 1948-2008 by Mark A. Leno, Jr. which is in the Dover NH library.