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Five Points Curtis Park

Five Points Curtis Park
Five Points Curtis Park

© Jeffrey Beall

Not far from downtown Denver is the "Harlem of the West"—Denver's historic Five Points District. While not exactly a Harlem, it's been labeled as such for its long history with jazz as well as its traditional African American community. Five Points remains one of the city's most culturally diverse neighborhoods, and still celebrates its roots as the location where Denver's jazz scene first began. At one time there were over 50 jazz clubs in this area, however today the clubs are somewhat sparse and you may have to venture into the surrounding downtown vicinity (to spots like El Chapultapec and Jazz at Jacks), to hear the mellow blend of the trumpet, trombone, and drums.

Celebrated musicians such as Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Miles Davis have passed through this inner-city neighborhood, playing at the Rossonian Hotel and Benny Hooper's Casino. Jazz continues to be a source of local pride with residents annually celebrating the Five Points Jazz Festival, where over 10,000 people gather for this event. The radio tagline from the late 1800's, "Cool, Crazy, and Hot," is associated with this festival, and there is no doubt of it being just that. It takes place on the historic Welton Street, where downtown's diagonal streets cross to create the Five Points Intersection--aptly named by Denver's old tramway company due to the difficulty of including each street name at its end-of-the-line stop.

More of a housing community than a park, Curtis Park encompasses the whole area of Five Points, and has some of the most elegant Victorian homes in Denver, as well as luxury lofts mixed in throughout the neighborhoods. In the 1880s, the area consisted of the upper middle-class and included some of the most prosperous African American communities in the west. Today you'll find 75 businesses which include cafes, boutiques, barber shops, salons, a radio station, and a bank.

Every summer, the Five Points Juneteenth celebration takes place commemorating the day when the Emancipation Proclamation was first announced to African Americans in Texas. Numerous museums such as the Black American West Museum and the Stiles African American Heritage Center are in place to tell the story of the African Americans who settled here. If you want to find out more about Five Points history, you can go on the Denver Story Trek (a multimedia tour), and visit some of the city's greatest historic attractions.

Some highlights of the area include the Mercury Café featuring small theater productions, poetry readings, and swinging jazz classes, and Curtis Park Creamery, which serves some of the best Mexican food in town.

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