24 Sep 2013 2 Comments
We had an awesome tour today of Five points in Denver.
It’s called 5 points because there are 5 streets that intersect in the middle of the neighborhood.
The old trolley line that went down there called the last stop ‘Five points’ and the name stuck. You’ll see stars with 5 points on the buildings too.
Now the light rail line goes into the neighborhood and is bringing a kind of revitalization to the area. The area of 5 points is culturally important as well as historically important. Many famous African Americans lived in 5 points such as Madame C.J. Walker (an entrepreneur who started an army of women selling hair products door to door), Justina Ford (Colorado’s first African American woman doctor), black cowboys, entrepreneurs who started barbers shops and restaurants in the area and one guy, Westwood, who was a light skinned African American who infiltrated the KKK in the area to spy on them (I bet that was scary.) This ad by the light rail tells about Mrs. Ford and Mme. Walker and shows how Walker was wanting to grow and lift up others along the way.
Five points started as a white suburb of Denver, but soon became known as the Harlem of the West and was the jazz scene where greats such as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Count Basie and others played.
Jack Kerouac and other Beatniks visited the Roxy and Casino cabaret.
The Rossonian hotel (renamed, at first it was the Baxter) housed entertainers such as Dizzy Gillespie, Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald when they came to Denver to perform and were denied a nights rest at other Denver hotels.
The lounge in the hotel became one of the hottest jazz spots between St. Louis and L.A.
Before we even started our tour we heard about the Blair-Caldwell library, named after two influential men in the area, Omar Blair, the first black president of the Denver school board, and Elvin Caldwell, the first black City Council member.
The baseball field right next to the library (which I did not get a picture of) was the first field in Denver to have electric lights installed so that people could play ball at night, and they still play ball games there. Our walking tour took us past the original Fire station No. 3
and the ‘new’ fire station (1931), look at the door mechanism, it’s original and still works (the doors open like folding doors, very cool.)
Here is an old picture (circa 1910-?) from the DPL site of the original fire station.
Here is a picture from DPL showing the ‘only colored fire company in Denver’ (at the time.)
This fire station is very involved in their community and very busy, they attend 14-16 calls a day! The name of Cousins is apparent on many of the buildings around the area.
This is a multi-house unit that he built and named after his wife, Alta.
Charles Cousins Sr. was influential in 5 points and it happens that his son, Charles Jr., was delivered by Justina Ford! Junior helped many people in the area get home loans and subsidized their rent when they couldn’t pay. He also fed people out of his home and I think made 5 points more of a tight knit community. This building with the ghost writing on it was a pharmacy, the only white owned pharmacy in the area that allowed black patrons to sit at the counter and read a paper.
I did not get a picture of Deep rock water, but that building has been on Welton st. since 1896 and believe it or not, the well that they drilled is still pumping cold spring water. We passed by the Stiles heritage center, they offer tours and classes to learn about African American heritage.
The Black American West museum is in 5 points too, we’ve been there before, but we didn’t stop by today.
That was a very small sampling of the 5 points area, we mainly saw the business district, but there is so much more to see (and many places to eat at, our guide told us of a few) so, we will be going back to see some more some day. We did stop in the library after the tour and go to the museum on the third floor. M was acting goofy in the barber chair.
We saw old ads, pictures from the 5 points hey day and oh…good….Lord, Hannah was Mayor.
They had some beautiful quilts on display too.
We ate lunch at SAME cafe’ and everyone followed us over there. Then we went back to 5 points to check out some alley graffiti, but the girls told me to move on and get them to the MCA.
They were in the process of changing exhibits so all that we saw was this cool polymer that drips like paint, some resin pieces and this room that was filled with wires (on the other side of the wall they all came together to power TV’s of all shapes and sizes that were telling a story.)
Up in the bubble room the girls played and Bethany made a moustache.
A great day.