A History of Old Town Center
J. W. Damel: Professor and Entrepreneur
Though hard to imagine now, the property at the corner of Clark and E. Atchison was once located at the terminus of the city streetcar line. John Wesley Damel, a 62-year old Lincoln University science professor turned entrepenuer, recognized the business potential of this tract of land. In the early 1920s he constructed the building currently housing Common Ground, along with three nearby residences.
Born in Florida, Missouri, in 1858, J. W. Damel moved to Jefferson City in 1890, when he was hired by Lincoln Institute to head the science department. He remained with the institution for forty years. After his death, his only son, Carroll Colton (CC) Damel inherited the entire tract of land, including the 2 ½ story Old Town Center.
Carroll Colton (CC) Damel (January 17, 1901 – August 20, 1991)
Education and higher learning ran deep in the Damel family. Taking after his father’s love of teaching, CC Damel became an educator and spent several years teaching at high schools around Missouri after completing graduate studies at the State University of Iowa and New York University.
In 1939, CC Damel returned to Jefferson City, perhaps to be closer to his mother after his father’s death. At this time, he also inherited the properties on the corner of Clark and East Atchison. He took up residence across the street from the present Old Town Center at 831 Clark Avenue – the rock house previously built by his father. His mother lived next door.
Soon after moving back, CC became employed at Lincoln University, primarily as director of admissions and records until his retirement in 1967. He continued to manage the property at 1015 E. Atchison, and it saw many businesses and people come through its doors until his death in 1991.
CC Damel: Continuing the Family Tradition
When first constructed, J.W. Damel intended the main floor of the building to be commercial space and the second floor to be two private residences. It was home to numerous businesses on the main floor, including several grocery stores, a laundromat, and most recently Homer’s Restaurant. In 1994, Homer and Donna Cavitte purchased the property from Damel’s heirs and continued to prepare food in this location until 2002.
Old Town Revitalization Company
In 2011, the Old Town Revitalization Company, a not-for-profit organization, became the owners of the then-abandoned property and with grant funding stabilized the exterior. A consortium of churches, led by First United Methodist Church of Jefferson City, agreed to renovate the interior and occupy the building.