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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 came to historical prominence before the American Civil War through the 1950s. The neighborhood was home to a number of Denver's early leaders, housing mayors, governors, and prominent businesspeople, as well as 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 the corner of 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 on the corner of 25th Street and California Street was once a Japanese Methodist church.  In 2002 Five Points was designated as a cultural historic district, in recognition of its important role in the Black history in the city.  In 2013, Sonny Lawson Park, at Park Avenue West and Welton, was renovated with completion of new ball field fencing and facilities, addition of exercise equipment, and improvements to the layout of the park. 

Black 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 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, both 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 historic attractions.  We chose this date to affirm the founding of Denver, CO as a city in 1858. 

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