Arts and Culture

Ten Best Commercial Signs on Central Colfax

The Colorado history contained in the 26 miles of Colfax Avenue, the longest main street in America, is thick with truth and tall tales. You can read some of this history in the commercial signs that still exist on Colfax; we've already profiled the best commercial signs on West Colfax and the best signs on East Colfax.

But it's the stretch between Colorado Boulevard and Broadway that is the most strange and storied, and so we've collected the best commercial signs that can be found along the busiest part of Colfax -- some old, some brand-new. Keep reading for an illuminating look at main street America. (Also, honorable mention to Trattoria Stella, Atomic Cowboy and Argonaut Liquors, for contributing more good signs to Colfax culture!)

See also: Keeping Colfax weird: Ten spots that give Denver's main street its culture and character

10) All Inn Motel 3015 East Colfax Known more in recent years for housing the once-hopping Rockbar, the All Inn Motel has definitely seen better days -- but its sign is still beautiful and bright. The simple, glowing "MOTEL" is a glaring reminder of a time when Colfax was a hot spot for tourists and travelers to stop overnight when heading through Denver. 9) Newhouse Hotel 1470 Grant Street Though technically not on Colfax, the Newhouse Hotel's building wraps around Grant and onto the street with a beautiful neon sign on the corner that signals the start of Colfax's central strip. The signage may be plain, but the retro piece was refreshed with new tubing in 2013 that has it shining bright. 8) Lost Highway Brewing 520 East Colfax Not a throwback or even a neon wonder, the Lost Highway Brewing sign proves that incandescent lighting and simple illustration can make a big impact. Named after Colfax's one-time designation as the highway Route 40, Lost Highway's wiggly, illuminated arrow is as eye-catching as the street it sits on. 7) John's Liquor 1816 East Colfax John's Liquor may be a run-of-the-mill liquor store, but its sign is a throwback to when commercial signage was an art form. Tall, bright and angled, this nice piece of neon work is a reminder of different times on Colfax -- and though the times change, much of the street's activities patrons keep this strip buzzing both day and night. 6) Tom's Diner 601 East Colfax It may not be neon, but Tom's Diner's eye-catching sign, with its wash of red flashing bulbs, has its own appeal to passersby. The diner's big windows have a fishbowl effect -- day or night, watching the people inside and out is as much a part of the experience as the food. But it's the greasy spoon's bright and bold sign that gets patrons in the door in the first place. 5) Pete's Kitchen 1962 East Colfax A Colfax institution open 24 hours a day, this diner may be the best-loved part of Pete Contos's restaurant and bar empire; in the '60s he took over a spot that had been cooking since 1942 and made it his own. Longtime patrons and first timers come all through the day and night for the classic diner vibe and quick and greasy fare, perfectly advertised by the jolly cook flipping pancakes with an outline of neon tubing that brings it all to life. 4) Bastien's 3503 East Colfax Opened in 1958 on the site of an old drive-in and still operated by the Bastien family, the Bastien's Restaurant building is an example of classic California Googie architecture -- and it's got a great sign to match. Made up of six individual signs together on a stylized set of posts, the mix of lettering styles accentuated by bright neon makes Bastien's visual calling card one of a kind. 3) Pete's Satire Restaurant and Lounge 1920 East Colfax Another one of Pete Contos's many Denver establishments, the spot known simply as "the Satire" was owner Contos's first endeavor after his arrival in Denver in the '50s. A classic neon sign of its era, the Satire's squiggly arrow pointing toward the door and the the bubbly martini glass beckon all walks of life into this classically Colfax hangout. 2) Voodoo Doughnuts 1520 East Colfax If you just moved to Denver, you may not know that Voodoo Doughnuts is a recent addition to the strip -- but with its spooky rendering and tarty pink neon tubing, that sign fits right in. The Portland-based company chose Colfax for its first venture outside of Oregon, and it fits the aesthetic perfectly. The joint is open 24 hours a day, solidifying the doughnut spot as a Colfax legend in the making. 1) Bluebird Theater 3317 East Colfax One of many old movie theaters in the city that got new life as a music venue, the Bluebird has been a staple spot to see shows since 1994 -- and it's got a great marquee, too. One of the few illuminated signs that is allowed to be animated on show nights, it has a beautiful combination of neon and incandescent light bulbs that make it one of the most iconic and recognizable signs on Colfax.

Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies

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Bree Davies is a multimedia journalist, artist advocate and community organizer born and raised in Denver. Rooted in the world of Do-It-Yourself arts and music, Davies co-founded Titwrench experimental music festival, is host of the local music and comedy show Sounds on 29th on CPT12 Colorado Public Television and is creator and host of the civic and social issue-focused podcast, Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? Her work is centered on a passionate advocacy for all ages, accessible, inclusive, non-commercial and autonomous DIY art spaces and music venues in Denver.
Contact: Bree Davies