One of Denver's oldest neighborhoods, with block after block of Victorian homes mixed with luxury lofts and new housing developments, Five Points is one of the few historically predominantly African American-owned commercial strips in the country. Some have referred to the area as the "Harlem of the West" for its jazz history, where many of the greats, including Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and more played at clubs like Rossonian and the Rainbow Room. The area was mentioned frequently in Jack Kerouac's On the Road. The Stiles African American Heritage Center (2607 Glenarm Pl.), The Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library (2401 Welton St.) and The Black American West Museum (3091 California St.) tell the story of the African American in the West. Explore Five Points' rich heritage with the Denver Story Trek, an interactive, multimedia tour that takes you to Denver's greatest historic attractions. denver-neighborhoods/five-points/
1. Five Points is one of Denver's oldest neighborhoods, and it used to be made up of primarily German, Irish and Jewish populations. The area was named "Five Points" in 1881 for the five-way intersection of 26th Street, 27th Avenue, Washington and Welton Streets. From 1890 onward, Five Points grew into an African American community as many found work laying down track for railroad companies. It would sometimes be called "The Harlem of the West" for its rich jazz history. In 2002, Five Points was recognized as a cultural historic district.
2. The Rossonian Hotel hosted jazz legends. The Rossonian sits literally in the heart of Five Points, at the five-way intersection for which Five Points is named. Jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Billy Holiday, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Charlie Parker played there. According to the Five Points Business District, many of the jazz musicians would stay in Five Points after wrapping up their downtown Denver gigs because the hotels in Denver wouldn't house them. Today however, the hotel sits empty.
3. Jack Kerouac wrote about his travels through Five Points in his literary classic, "On The Road." The Roxy and Casino Cabaret were known to count Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and other Beatnicks as frequent visitors. In Denver a group of fans have even spray-painted the areas visited by Kerouac with his iconic image and documented it on a Tumblr called "Jack Was Here."
4. Five Points is home to the Black American West Museum. This fascinating museum is located in the home of Colorado's first black woman doctor, Dr. Justina Ford. The museum tells the story of black cowboys, and Dearfield, Colo. The town of Dearfield, just east of Greeley, was founded on the principles of Booker T. Washington and was an all-black town before the Great Depression ultimately forced everyone back into the cities. Dearfield is now a ghost town.
5. Five Points still honors its jazz heritage with their annual Jazz Festival. This year's Jazz Festival brought together sidewalk chalk artists, Latin music and jazz to Five Points for free music and outdoor dancing.
On the Road was a smashing success, pointing out what disillusioned youth were feeling but couldn't articulate. Are still feeling. Sex, drugs, jazz, the open road, the future, living and doing for the experience alone, searching out something to give life meaning. A quest. And Denver has a starring role in the existential story.
It took him just three weeks to bang it out. One scroll taped together, 120 feet, no margins, no paragraphs, single-spaced; just a million thoughts and stories running together like one long dispatch from the front. A breakthrough in American Letters. A new style inspired by Denverite Neal Cassady, reflecting the urgency and zest that he felt. That so many felt. The mythic scroll of the prophet. Or so the legend goes.