A river of stories runs through Denver, thanks to iconic Colfax Avenue. Legend has it that Playboy once referred to Colfax Avenue as “the longest, wickedest street in America.” Legendary columnist George Will definitely said this: “The fear that war may blow civilization to smithereens loses some of its sting when you see Denver’s Colfax Avenue.”
That was back in 1978, and Colfax has come a long way since then (but then, Colfax still ranks as America’s longest Main Street). Much of the reason for that is the Colfax Business Improvement District, which started three decades ago.
To mark its thirtieth anniversary, the organization is hosting “30 Years of Colfax,” a free bash that runs from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, November 20, at the Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 Clarkson Street, a building that started life more than a century ago as an old roller rink. While historic tidbits like that will be unwrapped as the BID celebrates past accomplishments, the party will also offer a vision of the future for Colfax.
Contributing to that vision are new banners that just went up along East Colfax between Grant and Josephine streets, with eight illustrations of current and historic buildings and businesses by "The Denver Bootleg” cartoonist Karl Christian Krumpholz.
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"I was originally approached back in September by Sara Randall, who was working with Colfax BID, about this project," he explains. "We met up at a cafe on Colfax, discussed what was needed and made a list of twenty or so possible subjects, Colfax from the past and present." The BID whittled that list down to the eight final sites to illustrate.
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And eight doesn't begin to capture everything Krumpholz loves about Colfax. "I still hit quite a few places like Tooey's and Streets [of London] pretty regularly," he says. "But if I had to pick just one, it would be the corner of East Colfax and Race. There is a lot of Colfax history right there, from the brilliant old signs and history at Pete's Kitchen and Satire Lounge, as well as being a few steps from the Lion's Lair, which to me simply represents Colfax Avenue. That's probably why there are three of the eight banner illustrations that represent that corner of Colfax."
Represent that corner of Colfax for now, but the street, which is currently the focus of a city redevelopment plan, is rapidly changing. Krumpholz has come to grips with that. "There's always going to be changes in a city, though I've been surprised on how rapid the changes have been in Denver," he says. "However, it seems as if every time I worry about the changing face of Colfax, something inevitably happens — likely at the Lair — that reminds me that some of the old jaded character of the street is never fully gone."
See Krumpholz's banners and celebrate the street at "30 Years of Colfax." Although admission is free, you should RSVP here.