Though the iconic, now-vacant Yellow House at 312 Commerce St. remains a reminder of a former restaurant space, the building also once served as a home to Magnolia families for nearly a century.
Built in the early 1900s by Calvin Yon, the house is one of the oldest structures still standing in Magnolia, according to Magnolia historian Celeste Graves. In 2011 the house was donated to the city of Magnolia and moved from its original location on Nichols Sawmill Road to Commerce Street near the Magnolia Stroll.
From the 1930s though the 1960s the house was occupied by John and Belle Damuth. The couple raised their five children there and are believed to be the home’s longest residents, Graves said. The Damuths’ granddaughter, Ginger Ware Astolfo, said she remembers the house from her childhood.
“It had a white picket fence around it, and my grandmother had a rose garden with every imaginable rose that she could find,” Astolfo said.
While much of the home’s exterior has gone unchanged, the interior has seen many renovations throughout the years, Astolfo said.
“They’ve reconstructed the inside several times, so it doesn’t look like it did back [when it was built],” Astolfo said. “The house itself is still very sturdy—it was very well constructed to live as long as it [has] lived.”
The house was originally located on 20 acres of land, differing largely from its small-scale lot near the Stroll today. When it was first built, the house had three bedrooms, a large living room and a sleeping porch, which was a screened-in area where the home’s residents would sleep during the summer to keep cool, Astolfo said.
According to Graves, several families occupied the house before it was moved, which may feed into the local folklore surrounding the Yellow House. She said she has heard several accounts of the home being haunted but none from any of the former homeowners.
“[People] claimed it was haunted, but I wouldn’t take that to the bank,” Graves said.
In 2011, the Yellow House became the Montgomery County Grille, a home-style restaurant. After two years it was sold and renamed The Old Yellow House Cafe in April 2013. The cafe closed after a few months, but Graves and Astolfo said they would like a new dining option to occupy the space soon.
Even while vacant, the house has been maintained by the city to ensure residents will be able to keep a piece of history in the downtown Magnolia area.
“It’s not quite the oldest home there, but it’s getting close and that’s why the city wanted to preserve it,” Astolfo said. “I’m really happy that they did because it’s got a lot of childhood memories for me.”