Five Points, Denver
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Five Points Is one of Denver's oldest historic neighborhoods. It is located on the northeast side of the downtown central business district. It is in the part of Northeast Denver where the downtown street grid meets the neighborhood street grid of the first Denver suburbs. The five points in the district name are the vertexes formed where four streets meet: 26th Avenue, 27th Street, Washington Street, and Welton Street. Five Points was the shortened name for the street car stop located at this intersection.
Five Points came to historical prominence from the 1860s through the 1950s. The neighborhood was home to Denver's aristocracy, housing mayors, governors, and prominent business people. Rino, Prospect, Clement, Old San Rafael, Curtis Park, Arapahoe Square, and Ballpark neighborhoods are located within the larger Five Points neighborhood.
Historically, Five Points was a very diverse community, and still is today. At one period, when segregation was the law, an area centered around the Welton Corridor had an African American majority population. But years of demographic change have brought about a majority white population (57 percent), a large Latino population (23 percent), with the black population at (15 percent). Five Points was known as the "Harlem of the West". It became a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Denver because discriminatory home sale laws in other neighborhoods forbade black people from settling in them. From the 1920s to the 1950s the community thrived with a rich mix of local business and commerce along the Welton Corridor offering the neighborhood butcher, real estate companies, drug stores, religious organizations, tailors, restaurants, barbers and many other main street services. Welton Street was also home to over fifty bars and clubs, where some of the greatest jazz musicians such as Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Nat King Cole, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and others performed. Black performers that other hotels in Denver would not accommodate stayed at the Rossonian Hotel, built in 1912, and performed there, making it a famous music venue.
The Five Points community suffered from the late 1950s through the late 1990s because of drugs, crime, and urban flight. Many properties were abandoned, the local economy became somewhat irrelevant and the larger market found local business conditions unappealing. Attempts at redevelopment were made but there were many hindrances to reinvestment. The district became a no-man's land in need of a larger vision and a new generation of leadership.
Five Points has always been a neighborhood with a diverse economic mix of residents, evidenced by the variety of houses there. Mansions were built next to row homes. Many of the rich began moving out of Five Points in the late 19th century to live in the more popular Capitol Hill neighborhood. Five Points was also home to a large Jewish population and is still home to a former synagogue, Temple Emanuel, on the corner of 24th Street and Curtis Street. After World War II, many Japanese-Americans lived in Five Points. Agape Church on the corner of 25th Street and California Street was once a Japanese Methodist church.
Five Points today
Attempts to rebuild a strong business economy on Welton Street began in 2009 with the formation of the Five Points Business District. Progress is being made, with a new coffee shop at The Points development, as well the rehabilitation of older properties on the east end of the street. In early 2013 another coffee shop and a fitness studio leased space in a newly renovated property on 30th Street. The long empty Rossonian Hotel continues to be a reminder of the glory days but does not yet have any firm prospects for a tenant. Live music venues account for a sense of vibrancy on the nights when a concert is scheduled. Residents in the neighboring blocks are anxious for services that cater to the needs of the changing community.
A new apartment complex will be built started in 2014 at the corner of Park Avenue West and Welton, directly across the street from Sonny Lawson Park. And in 2013, Sonny Lawson saw many improvements with new ball field fencing and facilities as well as improvements to the layout of the park.
Five Points history is recorded and exhibited at the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center and at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library. A number of African-American churches and businesses still exist in the community.
Denver's Juneteenth festival draws thousands of people every year. A parade starts at Manual High School and goes down to Welton Street where vendors sell merchandise and street performers entertain the crowd.
In the early 1990s, Denver's first light rail system connected the downtown business district to Five Points. With the expanded light rail system and the forthcoming train to the airport, residents have better public transportation to all over the metro area. A new transit stop is being constructed at 38th and Blake which will provide train service to DIA in 2015.
Note; In 2012, former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff spearheaded an initiative to convert a 100 year-old horse barn in the Curtis Park Neighborhood of Five Points into a not-for-profit business accelerator.
- "Community Facts: Five Points". The Piton Foundation.