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Dover, New Hampshire
City Hall
City Hall
Official seal of Dover, New Hampshire
The Garrison City
Location within New Hampshire
Location within New Hampshire
Country United States
State New Hampshire
County Strafford
Settled 1623
Incorporated 1623 (town)
Incorporated 1855 (city)
 • Total 29.04 sq mi (75.22 km2)
 • Land 26.73 sq mi (69.23 km2)
 • Water 2.32 sq mi (6.00 km2)  7.97%
50 ft (15 m)
 • Total 32,741
 • Density 1,225/sq mi (473.0/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Codes
Area code(s) 603
FIPS code 33-18820
GNIS feature ID 0866618

Dover is a city in Strafford County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 32,741 at the 2020 census, making it the largest city in the New Hampshire Seacoast region and the fifth largest municipality in the state. It is the county seat of Strafford County, and home to Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, the Woodman Institute Museum, and the Children's Museum of New Hampshire.



The first known European to explore the region was Martin Pring from Bristol, England, in 1603. In 1623, William and Edward Hilton settled Cochecho Plantation, adopting its Abenaki name, making Dover the oldest permanent settlement in New Hampshire, and seventh in the United States. One of the colony's four original townships, it then included Durham, Madbury, Newington, Lee, Somersworth and Rollinsford.

The Hiltons' name survives at Hilton Park on Dover Point (which was originally known as Hilton Point), where the brothers settled near the confluence of the Bellamy and Piscataqua rivers. They were fishmongers sent from London by The Company of Laconia to establish a colony and fishery on the Piscataqua. In 1631, however, it contained only three houses. William Hilton built a salt works on the property (salt-making was the principal industry in his hometown of Northwich, England). He also served as Deputy to the General Court (the colonial legislature).

In 1633, Cochecho Plantation was bought by a group of English Puritans who planned to settle in New England, including Viscount Saye and Sele, Baron Brooke and John Pym. They promoted colonization in America, and that year Hilton's Point received numerous immigrants, many from Bristol. They renamed the settlement Bristol. Atop the nearby hill they built a meetinghouse surrounded by an entrenchment, with a jail nearby.


The town was called Dover in 1637 by the new governor, Reverend George Burdett. It was possibly named after Robert Dover, an English lawyer who resisted Puritanism. With the 1639 arrival of Thomas Larkham, however, it was renamed after Northam in Devon, where he had been preacher. But Lord Saye and Sele's group lost interest in their settlements, both here and at Saybrook, Connecticut, when their plan to establish a hereditary aristocracy in the colonies met disfavor in New England. Consequently, the plantation was sold in 1641 to Massachusetts and again named Dover.

Settlers built fortified log houses called garrisons, inspiring Dover's nickname "The Garrison City." The population and business center shifted upriver from Dover Point to Cochecho Falls, its drop of 34 feet (10 m) providing water power for industry (Cochecho means "the rapid foaming water.")

Cochecho Massacre

On June 28, 1689, Dover suffered a devastating attack by Indians. It was revenge for an incident on September 7, 1676, when 400 braves were duped by Major Richard Waldron into performing a "mock battle" near Cochecho Falls. After discharging their weapons, the braves were captured. Half were sent to Massachusetts for predations committed during King Philip's War, then either hung or sold into slavery. Local braves deemed innocent were released, but considered the deception a dishonorable breach of hospitality. Thirteen years passed. When colonists thought the episode forgotten, they struck. Fifty-two colonists, a quarter of the population, were either captured or slain.

During Father Rale's War, in August and September 1723, there were Indian raids on Saco, Maine and Dover, New Hampshire. The following year Dover was raided again and Elizabeth Hanson wrote her captivity narrative.

Dover NH August 2016
Cocheco River from Henry Law Park

Mill era

Smallest boy is Joseph Fortin. His mother (at home) said he is 14 years old. He does not look it. 6 A.M. Group going... - NARA - 523199
Child laborers at Cocheco Manufacturing Company in 1909, photo by Lewis Hine.

Located at the head of navigation, Cochecho Falls brought the Industrial Revolution to 19th-century Dover in a big way. The Dover Cotton Factory was incorporated in 1812, then enlarged in 1823 to become the Dover Manufacturing Company. In 1827, the Cocheco Manufacturing Company was founded (the misspelling a clerical error at incorporation), which in 1829 purchased the Dover Manufacturing Company. Expansive brick mills, linked by railroad, were constructed downtown. Incorporated as a city in 1855, Dover for a time became a leading national producer of textiles.

The mills were purchased in 1909 by the Pacific Mills of Lawrence, Massachusetts, which closed the printery in 1913 but continued spinning and weaving. During the Great Depression, however, textile mills no longer dependent on New England water power began moving to southern states in search of cheaper operating conditions, or simply went out of business. Dover's millyard shut in 1937, then was bought at auction in 1940 by the city itself for $54,000. There were no other bids. Now called the Cocheco Falls Millworks, its tenants include technology and government services companies, plus a restaurant.

Antique postcards

Geography and transportation

Downtown Dover 52
Downtown Dover

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 29.0 square miles (75.2 km2), of which 26.7 square miles (69.2 km2) are land and 2.3 square miles (6.0 km2) are water, comprising 7.97% of the city. Dover is drained by the Cochecho and Bellamy rivers, both of which flow into the tidal Piscataqua River, which forms the city's eastern boundary and the New Hampshire–Maine border. Long Hill, elevation greater than 300 feet (91 m) above sea level and located 3 miles (5 km) northwest of the city center, is the highest point in Dover. Garrison Hill, elevation approximately 290 ft (88 m), is a prominent hill rising directly above the center city, with a park and lookout tower on top.

The city is crossed by New Hampshire Routes 4, 9, 16 (the Spaulding Turnpike), 108, and 155, plus U.S. Route 4. It is bordered by the town of Newington to the south (across the inlet to Great Bay), Madbury to the southwest, Barrington and Rochester to the northwest, and Somersworth and Rollinsford to the northeast. South Berwick, Maine, lies to the northeast, across the tidal Salmon Falls River, and Eliot, Maine, is to the east, across the Piscataqua River.

The Cooperative Alliance for Seacoast Transportation (COAST) operates a publicly funded bus network in Dover and surrounding communities in New Hampshire and Maine. C&J Trailways is a private intercity bus carrier connecting Dover with other coastal New Hampshire and Massachusetts cities, including Boston, as well as direct service to New York City. Wildcat Transit, operated by the University of New Hampshire, provides bus service to Durham, which is free for students and $1.50 for the public. Amtrak's Downeaster train service stops at the Dover Transportation Center with service to the Portland Transportation Center, Boston's North Station, and intermediate stops.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 1,998
1800 2,062 3.2%
1810 2,228 8.1%
1820 2,871 28.9%
1830 5,449 89.8%
1840 6,458 18.5%
1850 8,196 26.9%
1860 8,502 3.7%
1870 9,294 9.3%
1880 11,687 25.7%
1890 12,790 9.4%
1900 13,207 3.3%
1910 13,247 0.3%
1920 13,029 −1.6%
1930 13,573 4.2%
1940 13,990 3.1%
1950 15,874 13.5%
1960 19,131 20.5%
1970 20,850 9.0%
1980 22,377 7.3%
1990 25,042 11.9%
2000 26,884 7.4%
2010 29,987 11.5%
2020 32,741 9.2%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2020, there were 32,741 people, 14,431 households, and 7,059 families residing in the city. The city grew by 2,754 residents between 2010 and 2020, the third-largest numeric growth of a town or city in New Hampshire, after Manchester and Nashua. The population density in 2020 was 1,224.88 people per square mile (472.93/km2). There were 15,166 housing units at an average density of 567.38 per square mile (219.07/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 87.2% White, 1.7% African American, 0.20% Native American, 5.1 Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.2% some other race, and 4.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.9% of the population.

There were 12,827 households, out of which 27.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.8% were headed by married couples living together, 10.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 45.0% were non-families. 31.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.6% were someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27, and the average family size was 2.89.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 20.3% under the age of 18, 11.0% from 18 to 24, 30.6% from 25 to 44, 24.9% from 45 to 64, and 13.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36.7 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.0 males.

For the period 2009–2011, the estimated median annual income for a household in the city was $55,040, and the median income for a family was $69,980. Male full-time workers had a median income of $51,891 versus $36,167 for females. The per capita income for the city was $30,590. About 6.8% of families and 8.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.2% of those under age 18 and 5.9% of those age 65 or over.

In popular culture

Dover was used as the fictional setting for the Hallmark Channel movie Christmas Incorporated.

Historic sites


The Dover School District consists of approximately 4000 pupils, attending Horne Street Elementary School, Garrison Elementary School, Woodman Park Elementary School, Dover Middle School and Dover High School. Dover High's athletic teams are known as "The Green Wave," and the middle school's teams are "The Little Green."

Saint Mary Academy, a Catholic school, has been in downtown Dover since 1912, currently serving about 200 students from pre-kindergarten to 8th grade. Many students at Saint Mary's subsequently attend St. Thomas Aquinas High School, a Catholic high school located on Dover Point.

Portsmouth Christian Academy is located west of the Bellamy River in Dover, serving preschool through 12th grade.

The Cocheco Arts and Technology Academy (CATA) is a public charter high school with about 100 students. It was formerly located in Barrington, New Hampshire.

The Seacoast Charter School is a publicly funded elementary/middle school that integrates the arts into the core curriculum. The school was founded in 2004 in Kingston, New Hampshire, and relocated to Dover in 2015. Enrollment in January 2016 was 215 students in grades K–8.

Notable people

Images for kids

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