Colfax Week: Denverite’s series about the avenue that defines Denver

Our reporters have been canvassing Colfax Avenue for the past month, looking for stories that tell us about the past and the future of this cross-section of Denver.

Pedestrians cross East Colfax Avenue, Sept. 7. 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

denver; colorado; denverite; colfax; kevinjbeaty; pedestrian; crosswalk; walk denver;
Pedestrians cross East Colfax Avenue, Sept. 7. 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; colfax; kevinjbeaty; pedestrian; crosswalk; walk denver;
Pedestrians cross East Colfax Avenue, Sept. 7. 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Our reporters have been canvassing Colfax Avenue for the past month, looking for stories that tell us about the past and the future of this cross-section of Denver.

We’ve been publishing those stories over the last few days, and we’ll hold a happy hour event on Thursday night where we’ll discuss it all with our readers and some of the people we’ve featured.

Let’s get caught up.

Everyone we met on Colfax in five hours on the street. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) colfax; gifportrait; portraiture; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
Everyone we met on Colfax in five hours on the street. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Day 1:

We started Colfax Week with a download of pure nostalgia: Andy drove for an hour down East Colfax with Tom Martin, a man with a nearly perfect memory spanning decades of details and stories on the avenue.

Ashley published a locals’ guide to eating on Colfax, including personal suggestions from the people who know the avenue best and a poll of our readers.

RMCAD groundskeeper Regan Headrick inside the old synagogue, which is his charge to maintain. A synagogue in Lakewood that was once used by the Jewish Consumptive Relief Society. It was re-constructed in 1925 and now sits on the campus of the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. Sept. 18, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; rmcad; lakewood; west colfax; jcrs; judaism; synagogue;
A synagogue in Lakewood that was once used by the Jewish Consumptive Relief Society. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Day 2:

Kevin mapped the history of Jewish pioneers on West Colfax. One surprising relic: Early Jewish settlers built the miniature downtown near Mile High. Now, it’s a pre-game favorite for Broncos fans.

One of the most incredible things about Colfax is that the businesses simply don’t stop. Its core is a dense, downtown environment, but eastern and western Colfax include miles of suburban commerce. Lakewood’s asking: What do you do with an infinite strip mall?

Michael X works the jukebox at Nob Hill on a Tuesday evening after work. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; bars; nightlife; east colfax; capitol hill;
Michael X works the jukebox at Nob Hill on a Tuesday evening after work. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Day 3:

We dove into Colfax’s reputation and its kitsch. Ashley spent a night and an early morning at Nob Hill Inn, the oldest dive bar on Colfax, where she found some bizarre and incredible stories.

Erica met Jonny Barber, who has spent decades on the avenue and who just happens to be an Elvis impersonator. The story of the guy who got him in a headlock is one of the most perfect Colfax tales we’ve heard all week. Jonny also wants to open a Colfax museum.

Andy investigated everyone’s favorite quote about Colfax — “the longest, wickedest street in America” — and finds no sign that it was ever printed in Playboy Magazine. But he did find something just as good. 

Day 4:

Karl Christian Krumpholz published a comic-book history of Colfax Avenue for us.

Day 5:

Ever noticed the fanciful eight-story tower that looms over East Colfax? Today, it’s a storage facility for new apartment dwellers’ stuff. In 1926, it was also a storage facility for new apartment dwellers’ stuff. Adrian has the history of a building that redefined the avenue and never changed again.

Tiffany Christian lived on the 15 bus along Colfax Avenue when she was a teenager. “Perhaps there’s a certain adaptation one finds themselves in while adjusting to a life on ‘The Fax,’ as we call it,” she wrote.

Agata Indiatsi spent hundreds of hours photographing life along that same bus route, and he was kind enough to share his incredible images with us. (Denverite)

(Courtesy Agata Martin Indiatsi) **do not reuse**
(Courtesy Agata Martin Indiatsi)
Day 6:

Bus rapid transit is going to change the look and feel of Colfax Avenue, and the way people navigate the street. Megan published an excellent explanation of this massive new project.

There are 89 car dealerships along the length of Colfax. Adrian asked what’s going to happen to all of them. As it turns out, they have reason to be worried.

Day 7:

Erica published a really enlightening story about motels on Colfax. Many of their neighbors want to see them out of business, and the city has recently pursued legal action against some, but there are a lot of factors at play. Most importantly, they are a source of housing — often overpriced and poor quality, but housing nonetheless.

Megan traced the history of tattooing on Colfax, which features what may have been the very first tattoo shop in Denver.

Street Fraternity was originally meant to give kids with violence issues somewhere stable. It’s grown into much more than that. Christian took us inside. 

Dave put together a guide to the real surplus of great geeky spots on Colfax Avenue.

Inside Hyperspace Arcade near West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Inside Hyperspace Arcade near West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Day 8:

Andy asked why everyone always says Colfax is “gritty.”

Kevin embedded with the Guardian Angels, an unarmed group that patrols Colfax and Cap Hill. Their story here is really kind of crazy and slightly bizarre. Just don’t call them vigilantes.

We took a look forward at the $20 million plan to rebuild Colfax sidewalks.

And we finally wrapped things up with a really fun podcast session with Paul, which also includes an audio portrait of East Colfax. Also, Kevin made gorgeous motion portraits of people on the street.

Thanks for reading!

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"Colfax is about diversity. Colfax is about people, culture, art, music...it's a lifestyle that you have to be ready and prepared for. Let's keep Colfax dope." -John Chapman IV, owner of Lawrence & Larimer, on Colfax. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) colfax; gifportrait; portraiture; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
“Colfax is about diversity. Colfax is about people, culture, art, music…it’s a lifestyle that you have to be ready and prepared for. Let’s keep Colfax dope.” -John Chapman IV, owner of Lawrence & Larimer, on Colfax. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.