It’s not a haunted park, a big blue bear, or a horse with glow red eyes, but Colfax Avenue is just one of Denver’s major landmarks simply the same. This vibrant and colorful street was once infamously referred to as the “longest, wickedest street in America,” a quote frequently attributed come Playboy magazine. In ~ 26.5 miles long, it is the longest advertising street in the unified States, stretching through Aurora, Denver, Lakewood, and also Golden, but if you counting the remainder of that after it stops gift a advertisement district, Colfax Ave clocks in at end 53 miles. Colfax is house to some of Denver’s most iconic businesses, music venues, and bars—everything indigenous Casa Bonita to the state capitol building—but its history goes back a lot more than that.
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The gold Road
Like lot of Colorado’s history, Colfax Avenue’s starts through the Colorado Gold rush in the 19th century. The long dirt road which led from Denver to gold was called “The gold Road,” and served as a significant thoroughfare in and out of the mountains. (as among its other common nicknames, “The Gateway to the Rockies,” implies) The name readjusted to honor Schuyler Colfax, an Indiana lawmaker who was critical in Colorado attaining statehood, and who eventually came to be vice president under Ulysses S. Grant.
While the was critical part of Golden’s infrastructure, the road never became quite as entwined in its community as it did further eastern in Denver and Aurora (then referred to as Fletcher). As Denver grew, so did Colfax Avenue, quickly coming to be an arterial street that Colorado’s capital city. And, truly befitting the its Wild West reputation, that quickly became home come saloons, brothels, and also other houses of ill repute. Through the end of the 19th century, Colfax had a trolley vehicle which ran up and down the street, and also hundreds that visitors, both locals and also tourists, every day.
Eventually, Colfax became component of the united state 40 Interstate, i beg your pardon in the heyday ran from san Francisco on the West coastline all the means to Atlantic City top top the east Coast. This supposed it ended up being a liven street complete of web traffic by the 1950s, and also all those travellers on Colfax expected there was an excellent opportunity for business. Countless of the prominent and also eye-catching neon signs you view on Colfax this particular day originated during this time, design to record attention from travelers that had been in the automobile for hours and needed a break, and soon the bright lamp on restaurants, bars, music venues, and also motels came to be a landmark the the street.
And climate in the 60s and 70s, I-70 was built, and Colfax, no longer the key street it had once been, fell into disrepair. Once the tourists stopped coming to Colfax, plenty of of that businesses and landmarks declined, leaving room for some of the images we associate v the street today, of abandoned lots and dilapidated buildings, of prostitution and also drugs. Zoning regulations from the 1920s that were much more liberal than various other parts of Denver intended Colfax to be a prime ar for adult businesses—a term that encompassed the gamut of tattoo parlors to strip clubs—to set up shop.
These days, Colfax is separation into number of sectors, however the main stretch just east of downtown Denver represents a kind of grungy-chic component of the city, complete of bars, tattoo parlors, shops and also boutiques, breweries, dispensaries, and also loads of people. The a piece of Denver that prides itself on being unique, historic, and a tiny bit rough around the edges. The Number 15 bus line, which runs down lot of Colfax, has actually the most ridership of any kind of bus heat in the RTD system. ~ being thought about an “undesirable” part of town for so long, Colfax has operated hard in recent years to reclaim its vibrancy through supporting new small businesses and many the its classics. While some still proactively avoid the area, they’re seriously missing out, since Colfax, an ext than possibly any kind of other component of Denver, is filled to the brim v personality, and also it’s residence to part incredible parts of Denver’s history. Whether you’re trying to find live music, an excellent food, craft beer, or several of the most interesting human being you’ll ever meet, Colfax has got it in spades. Few of the above businesses follow me Colfax avenue Include:
- Pete’s Kitchen & Pete’s Satire Lounge
- Casa Bonita
- Voodoo Doughnuts
- The Lion’s Lair
- The Bluebird Theater
- The Ogden Theater
- The Fillmore
- The U.S. Mint
- twisted & Shout
- Tattered covering Bookstore
- Bastien’s Restaurant
- taco Acapulco
- The Aurora Fox art Center
- Colorado Mills Mall
The pandemic has actually taken many standard businesses prior to their time, prefer the Denver Diner which closeup of the door its doors in January 2021, yet so too has actually gentrification, together it did come Tom’s Diner (Colfax has a lot of diners—spoiler alert, they’re all great), which will shortly be the website of a restaurant and also entertainment venue, and also to countless of the human being who have dubbed Colfax areas their residence for decades, mainly immigrant communities and also people of color. It’s an ugly next to the revitalization the the neighborhood, and also one us shouldn’t ignore. Colfax has gone through countless phases in that is life, native the brothels and strip clubs of its previous to the artisan boutiques and also hipster bars that its present. But vestiges of each of those phases have the right to be uncovered up and also down the street, in small ways choose Aladdin Liquors, just down the block from the website where the Aladdin Theater when stood, and in more notable ways like the neon indicators of Pete’s Kitchen and also the glowing marquees of historic music venues, i beg your pardon still stand proud in between the handmade breweries and expensive new condominiums.
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Colfax is changing, but then again, it’s been in a state of change for every one of its 150 year history. It’s that change, and also that eclectic mix that past and also future—of hair salons the were once brothels and neon signs advertising the ideal pancakes in town—that will save this iconic part of Denver delightfully weird for a long time to come.