The Dorothy Dove Building

Image by Brian G. Spare
Dorothy Dove’s Legacy in Thunder Bay

by Brian G. Spare

Dorothy Dove image courtesy of Thunder Bay Historical Museum

Ever wonder how buildings get their names? I have, and the Dorothy E. Dove Building on the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition (CLE) grounds is one of them. When I went to the CLE office to find out, I met a family of friendly and dedicated staff and volunteers who were not just doing a job. I could tell running the CLE to them was a labour of love. One of those volunteers, Marian Benka, who took over managing the Dove Building from Dorothy Dove, spoke with me and gave me a tour of the Dove Building. To begin with, its original name was the Home Arts Building constructed at the corners of Fort William Road, Wylie St. and what is now Northern Ave. in 1912 (Northern Ave. didn’t exist at the time). It was decided in 1934 to relocate the Home Arts Building to its present location. They rolled it on logs down Fort William Road pulled by a team of horses to where it rests on four foot square solid cedar beams sitting on concrete footings. Dances were held on the building’s second floor to the music of Roy Curran every Saturday night. It’s where many soldiers returning home from the war found their sweethearts.

She was known as Dorothy to people of all ages

Image by Brian G. Spare

Also called the “Ladies’ Building” the Home Arts Building housed horticultural and creative arts and crafts exhibits and competitions all overseen by Dorothy Dove. She was known as Dorothy to people of all ages, and had a presence about her that, once you met her, you would remember her. In 1982, after 37 years of dedicated volunteer service to the CLE, she was honoured with having the Home Arts Building named after her. It became the Dorothy E. Dove Building. When Dorothy retired from the CLE, Marian Benka became the one in charge of the Dove Building. She had big shoes to fill, and she did it with all the charm, grace and confidence of her predecessor. Now Marian has given 40 years of dedicated service to the CLE.

Over the years, the CLE evolved

What we now know as the CLE was started in 1890 as the West Algoma Agricultural Society holding agricultural fairs at a number of locations such as Prince Arthur’s Landing and the Port Arthur Armories. Over the years, the CLE evolved into today’s urban and agricultural fair. Each summer I head to CLE to go on the rides, play the midway and see the shows and exhibits. Until writing this article I never thought of all the planning that goes into it. The CLE doesn’t just “happen” each year. It would never take place without months of work and preparation by the CLE staff and volunteers. They plan and organize the fair, oversee the various activities that take place in all the buildings on the CLE grounds like the Country Market bingos.

Without the revenue from these events, the CLE could not afford the expense of maintaining and upgrading the buildings to hold the fair. When you are at the CLE this year, think about all the time and preparation it took for the fair take place. Show your appreciation for the year-long work of the CLE staff and dedication of volunteers like Marian Benka.

The 123rd CLE is August 7-11, 2013.

Thank the following for their assistance with this article:

Canadian Lakehead Exhibition

Thunder Bay Historical Museum

Thunder Bay Public Library

City of Thunder Bay

Brian G. Spare is a local author and freelance copywriter who is a regular contributor to Bayview Magazine. Contact him at

*Previously published in Bayview Magazine*

Published by Brian G. Spare

I am a thinker and very creative person by nature and love to work with my hands and head and put my heart into all of it. Life is a journey and I am with it all the way ready to embark on the next adventure that life has for me.

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