Our friend and neighbor Rod Coffee got on his motorbike recently to take us on a tour of Five Points, one of Denver’s most diverse neighborhoods. He spoke to old residents and new ones alike to catch the vibe of this rapidly changing scene. What makes the area surrounding the intersection so interesting? Take the RTD up Welton Street and find out. It has been called the “Harlem of the West” for its vibrant jazz and R&B music scene. Billie Holliday, Miles Davis, and Louis Armstrong used to play at the clubs. It’s home to small Black-owned businesses, great food and drink, and Jack Kerouac wrote about it in his book “On the Road.”
“At lilac evening I walked with every muscle aching among the lights of 27th and Welton in the Denver colored section, wishing I were a Negro, feeling that the best the white world had offered was not enough ecstasy for me, not enough life, joy, kicks, darkness, music, not enough night.”
Redlining created the primarily Black neighborhood and gentrification is now changing it, attracting a more diverse mix to one of our city’s hippest corridors. It’s not the same as when Armstrong and Kerouac came through and it’s not without its challenges, but folks who live there are working to keep the soul in this soulful part of Denver. Juneteenth Music Festival and the Five Points Jazz Festival are both coming up in June and the streets will be packed, but any day is a good day to visit “The Harlem of the West,” see its murals and eat, drink, and shop.