DAMAR, Kan. (KSNW) — There’s no stoplight, no high rise, not even a Mcdonald’s. However, what the small town of Damar, Kansas, lacks in infrastructure, it makes up for in heart and personality.
“It’s wonderful because most of it is the people here. They want to be here. They are not here just because they are born and raised here. They want to stay here,” said Jim Desbien, the treasurer for the Damar Community Foundation.
Desbien’s family settled in the French Canadian heritage town, also known as the “Acadia of the West,” in the late 1800s.
“My family, my parents, both sets of grandparents and both great-grandparents are settlers and were born in Damar,” he said.
Desbien and longtime resident Richard Benoit are proud to call Damar home. However, they have seen their town go from thriving to dying in the past.
“We have seen a lot of changes. The town has grown a little bit, but then it started going backward for a while. Now, we are kind of stabilized. We are not a big town, but it’s a clean town. One of the cleanest towns you will find in northwest Kansas,” said Benoit, 87.
Damar is centered around its Catholic faith. The twin towers of St. Joseph’s Church stand tall in the center of town. The church, built in 1912, recently celebrated its 100th anniversary and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We have always been in the church. That is the foundation of our community,” Benoit said.
That foundation has spread to restoration projects throughout town. Thanks to several grants, the Damar Community Foundation has been able to transform outdated, dilapidated buildings into proud structures and gathering spaces.
“Some of the nonresidents, but yet local people, went through the town, and they took a project to paint this town up, get it all cleaned,” Desbien said. “We took two old buildings and made them one beautiful building we call our foundation or our french quarters.”
The group has also fixed up city hall, repainting the exterior and renovating a rundown gift shop into a recreation center.
“Another great project that happened in the last 10 years was the sidewalk project. Our sidewalks were totally rundown on Main Street,” Desbien explained.
With new buildings, new sidewalks and new homes, Desbien said new people are coming to Damar.
“We have had several people move back, and like us, we are kind of “removed back.” A lot of people just want to move out of the bigger cities and get a nice, small little place to live in,” he said.
“The people that are coming in are keeping the property up. You can tell by looking around the city that the people that are here, they keep it up real good,” Benoit said.