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Sat, 11.17.1860

The Five Points Community of Denver, CO, a story

*Denver, Colorado’s Five Points community is celebrated on this date in 1860.  It is one of the few predominantly Black-owned commercial strips in America. 

Five Points of Denver, Colorado, is one of their oldest neighborhoods, with block after block of Victorian homes mixed with luxury lofts and new housing developments.  Five Points was historically prominent before the American Civil War through the 1950s. The neighborhood was home to several of Denver's early leaders, housing mayors, governors, prominent businesspeople, and middle-class laborers. Rino, Prospect, Clement, Old San Rafael, Curtis Park, Arapahoe Square, and Ballpark neighborhoods are in the larger Five Points neighborhood. 

Some have referred to the area as the “Harlem of the West” for its long-standing jazz history, where Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and others played at clubs like Rossonian and the Rainbow Room.  Five Points has long 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, at one time, had a large Jewish population formed by waves of immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

A former synagogue, Temple Emanuel, stands on 24th and Curtis Street. The Jewish community founded Rose Hospital.  After World War II, many Japanese Americans who had been interned in interior camps resettled in Denver and lived in Five Points. Agape Church was once a Japanese Methodist church on the corner of 25th Street and California Street.  In 2002 Five Points was designated as a cultural historic district in recognition of its essential role in the city's Black history.  In 2013, Sonny Lawson Park, at Park Avenue West and Welton, was renovated with new ball field fencing and facilities, exercise equipment, and park layout improvements. 

Black history is recorded and exhibited at the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center and at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library. Many Black churches and businesses still operate 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. Vendors sell merchandise, and street performers entertain the crowd. The Five Points Jazz Festival takes place every May and celebrates the jazz history of the neighborhood. Stages are set up along Welton street inside the various music venues and on the street itself. 

The area was mentioned frequently in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Also, the Cities African American Heritage Center and The Black American West Museum & Heritage Center tell the story of the West through the Black experience. Visitors can explore Five Points' rich heritage with the Denver Story Trek, an interactive multimedia tour that takes you to Denver's greatest historical attractions.  We chose this date to affirm Denver's founding as a city in 1858. 

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