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History of West Colfax

Timeline

Early History

Native Americans settled in the area currently known as West Colfax around 6000 BC.

1850s

The Ute Indians used the present-day West Colfax Ave as a trade route to access the commercial hub of Denver.

As part of the Gold Rush, miners used West Colfax to access precious stones and minerals in the Rocky Mountains.

1860s

·      1865 – Dr. Gerald Biliss, who lived at 1389 Stuart Street, was a Civil War veteran and a member of the honor guard over President Lincoln’s casket.

1870s

·      1874: Sloan’s Lake was connected to Cheltenham Heights by a canal.

1880s

West Colfax was still relatively undeveloped and residents in central Denver referred to as “No Man’s Land” or “Jim’s Town.”

·      1887 – The original Colfax Elementary School opened at 1526 Tennyson Street.

1890s

The area was primarily occupied by factory workers and laborers who lived in modest houses.

·      1891 – Mr. Voorhees platted the six-block West Colfax subdivision as part of his growing real estate and city improvement activities. This type of development was in line with the general real estate boom of the late 1880s.

·      1891 – The Town of Colfax was established, distinct from Denver.

·      1892 – The Town of Brooklyn was established.

·      1892 – Streetcar lines were completed from Larimer to Sheridan, spurring the creation of new residential neighborhoods in West Denver and business development along West Colfax.

·      1893 – St. Anthony’s Hospital Central opened

·      1896 – The Golden Road was renamed Colfax after Schuyler Colfax. Mr. Colfax was a former newspaper editor and speaker of the U.S. House who eventually became vice president under Ulysses S. Grant.

·      1897 – Colfax and Brooklyn merged and became incorporated into the city of Denver as the “West Colfax Neighborhood”

1900s

Immigrants from the eastern United States, as well as more recent arrivals from central and eastern Europe arrived in West Colfax and formed a predominantly Jewish community.

West Colfax served as the main connector between Denver and the agricultural communities of Morrison and Golden. As a result, West Colfax had a constant flow of hay wagons and peddlers. In addition, trolly lines and bike paths were laid out to help people move around.

Roady Kenehan lived on 13th and Stuart St. and served as Colorado State Auditor and Treasurer. Kenehan was of Irish descent and was active in labor politics.

1910s

The Jewish community continued to grow, with kosher markets, dry good stores and pharmacies throughout the area. The immigrants on West Colfax were called “Ostrovers” (or “Ostys”) after their hometown of Ostrov, Poland.

·      1910 – Yeshivas Etz Chaim, a prominent Hebrew school, was established at 2852 W. 14th Ave.

·      1913 - Golda Meir moved in with her older sister on 1606 Julian St. Their home was a hub for intellectual conversations. In her autobiography, Meir wrote: "To the extent that my own future convictions were shaped and given form [...] those talk-filled nights in Denver played a considerable role."

·      1917 – The Colfax-Larimer viaduct was constructed and at the time, it was the longest concrete viaduct in the world. This viaduct helped connect West Colfax with downtown Denver.

1920s

Streetcar subdivisions began replacing farms throughout the West Colfax neighborhood.

·      1925: The most liberal zoning laws in Denver are put on Colfax Avenue, eventually paving the way for adult-oriented shops decades later.

·      1926 - Lake Jr. High School opened.

·      1926 - Boxer Eddie Bohn opened the Pig 'N Whistle restaurant in 1926. The restaurant became a major hub for athletes and rumor has it that notorious hothead and former New York Yankee Billy Martin got into a fight there. Bohn's son, Punch, closed the restaurant in 1991, and Eddie Bohn died the next year.

·      1927 – Lake Steam Baths opens.

1930s

The Depression stunted most growth or development along West Colfax. However, Eddie Bohn’s Pig ‘N Whistle expanded into a motel during this era. The 1930s also marked a time when West Colfax starting becoming increasingly auto-focused.

·      1932 – West Colfax Ave was paved

·      1935 – The Charles D. Spivak Educational Instutute opened its doors at 1453 Lowell Ave.

·      1935-6- The Civilian Conservation Core widened Colfax

·      1937 – The Guldman Community center opened at 1601 Irving Street to serve as a Jewish community center.

·      1938 – US Highway 40 adopted Colfax Ave as part of its transcontinental route.

1940s

·      Travelers using West Colfax to access the mountains spurred a construction boom for motels, restaurants and hotels.

·      After WWII, tourist amenities popped up all along West Colfax.

·      1949 – Colfax was widened again and underwent additional improvements.

·      By the end of the 1940s, most of Denver’s streetcars were eliminated and replaced by buses and cars.

1950s

The 1950s marked the “Golden Age” of tourist-strip development along Colfax. During this time, the Jewish community began dispersing to other parts of Denver.

·      During the 1950s, the first public housing was constructed in the neighborhood.

·      1953 – Ed Perlmutter was born to a West Colfax family and grew up to become a US Congressman for Colorado’s 7th Congressional District in 2007

·      1958- US-6 bridge over Federal Blvd was constructed and diverted traffic away from West Colfax.

·      1956 - Between 1956 and 1971, Denver Urban Renewal Authority planned and executed the construction of the Avondale center that included a shopping center, high rise multi-family apartments and townhomes. By-and-large, this project was a classic example of the failed policies of Urban Renewal.   

·      1958 – Colfax reached its peak of tourist development with 43 motels on West Colfax.

·      1959 – West Colfax resident Ruth Handler debuted a new plastic doll named “Barbie.”

1960s

The Denver Metropolitan region experienced tremendous growth, with the population doubling from 1960 to 1990. Much of this growth occurred in suburban areas, like Lakewood. No longer “No Man’s Land,” West Colfax was essentially part of Denver’s suburbs. As a result, West Colfax shifted from servicing tourists to servicing suburbanites. In particular, during the 1960s, Hispanic immigrants began moving into the West Colfax neighborhood.

·      1966 – I-70 was completed and replaced US-40 (Colfax Ave) as the major East-West corridor.

1970s

·      1970 – Downtown Denver cleanup efforts began and shifted prostitution and adult theaters to the urban periphery, including West Colfax.

·      1978 – A revitalization effort began with a study of the street itself and means to create a more inviting environment.

·      Anglo residents moved into the West Colfax area.

·      Southeast Asian immigrants began settling in the area.

1980s

·      1987 – West Colfax on the Rise was developed as a plan for the neighborhood. The plan focused on development around major “nodes.”

1990s

By 1990, only 40% of the motels that existed during West Colfax’s heyday remained. The area became the focus of revitalization efforts, including Community Development Block Grants supported projects at the Girls Club and Cheltenham School in an effort to improve the neighborhood. In addition, Denver declared West Colfax as a Enterprise Zone District to provide state income tax benefits to businesses that move to the area. Latino immigrants became the primary immigrant group to settle in Denver.

·      1992 – The City landscaped medians from Federal Blvd. to Knox Ct.

·      1993 – The West Colfax Revitalization Plan was completed with an emphasis on improved businesses and neighborhoods.

·      1995 – The Federal Boulevard Corridor Plan was completed with a focus on safety and enhanced image.  

2000s

By 2000, 73% of West Colfax’s residents were Latino. The new wave of immigrants from Central and South America redefined West Colfax as a primarily Latino community.

·      2002 – The City of Denver’s Master Plan, Blueprint Denver, designated West Colfax as an “Area of Change”

·      2006 – The West Colfax Business Improvement District was founded.

2010s

·      2010 – Eddie Bohn’s Pig n’ Whistle burns down.

·      2011 –West Colfax Green Pilot: Streetscape, A major streetscape improvement program, begins. The project brings solar pedestrian lights, trees, and sustainable public art at the East and West gateways to the corridor.

·      2011 – The Festival Plaza Shopping Center begins major improvements and investments, with the addition of Mi Pueblo Market and a mixed use affordable housing project.

·      2012 - Joe Riche and Demiurge Design of Denver installed sustainable public art on the new West Colfax medians.

·      2012 – The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless opens Renaissance West End Flats and West End Health Center to provide affordable housing and healthcare.

·      2013 - West Line opened with Knox and Perry Stations.            

Street view

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West Colfax BID

303-623-3232

3275 W 14th Ave, #202

Denver, CO 80204