Colfax Avenue's sordid and fascinating history provides a road map for the evolution of the metro area. The longest uninterrupted main street in the United States, Colfax coasts from Aurora to Golden with chunks of Denver and Lakewood in between, providing an excellent cross-section of Colorado commerce, culture and community. And since this strip formerly known as Route 40 was here for both boom and bust, during the good times beautiful architecture, structures and signage appeared -- much of which survived the busts.
Westword is taking a look at Colfax's history through the signage found in each section of the strip. Starting from the west end at Kipling and heading toward downtown Denver, we've captured just some of the great signs belonging to current and former businesses that give West Colfax its visual character.
10) Western Hills Motel 5035 West Colfax Avenue Long before I-25 swooped in and diverted traffic off of Colfax, Route 40 was one of two main highways that pumped people into the Mile High City. As automobile traffic increased, so did business along the 26-mile strip. Folks traveling into the Mile High City from the west and the east had plenty of options for places where they could stop for a meal or the night, and the Western Hills Motel was just one of the many motor lodges that appeared during this era. The sign still boasts modern conveniences from the hotel's heyday: telephones and televisions.
9) SideWok Cafe 4930 West Colfax Avenue The only sign from this century to make the list, the now-closed Sidewok Cafe's addition to Colfax is still a memorable one. The neon work displayed within the intricate marquee for this former vegetarian restaurant harks back to a time when a flashy sign could do wonders to attract hungry customers.
8) Lakewood Lodge 5601 West Colfax Avenue As times and the economy changed, so did the uses for hotels and motels along Colfax. The Lakewood Lodge is still busy, but today it acts more as temporary housing than a nightly stop for cross-country drivers just passing through. Though the neon work is long gone, the motel now has a clean and nicely painted sign that honors its original shape.
7) Eddie Bohn's Pig 'N Whistle Restaurant and Motel 4801-4823 West Colfax Avenue This sign is virtually all that is left of the once-hopping Pig 'N Whistle restaurant and motel, opened by former boxer Eddie Bohn. From 1924 (when it got its start as a gas station) to 1991, the Pig served hot meals and cool cocktails to politicians, star athletes, civilians and Hollywood types. Read and see more of the Pig's colorful history in Westword's conversation with Bohn's son "Punch," who shared his memories of his father's business after the building burned down in 2010. Keep reading for more of the best commercial signs on West Colfax.
6) Big (Bugs) Bunny Motel 6218 West Colfax Avenue Yet another quaint and unique low-key motel on the West Colfax strip, this spot was known for decades as the Bugs Bunny Motel -- then renamed the Big Bunny Motel in the 1990s (possibly for copyright issues?). Though the neon is not fully intact, remnants of the Big Bunny's previous moniker can still be seen.
5) Lakewood Grill 8100 West Colfax Avenue Opened in 1951, the Lakewood Grill is still very much a neighborhood hangout and hot spot right on the Colfax strip, serving up drinks, bar food and even live music. The Lakewood Grill's neon sign is in excellent condition, showing off the craftsmanship that makes this kind of signage stand out against modern, generic signs.
4) Davies Chuckwagon Diner 9495 West Colfax Avenue Probably the most iconic sign along this strip of West Colfax, Davies Chuckwagon Diner and its glorious neon sign have been calling customers in for a meal since 1957. The actual shell of the diner was delivered and set on its foundation after a train trek all the way from the East Coast. Though it has changed hands several times, the same great sign (and the horse above the doorway) remain in perfect condition. Keep reading for three more of the best commercial signs on West Colfax.
3) Homestead Motel 8837 West Colfax Avenue Much like many of the early motels on Colfax, the Homestead Motel doesn't stand out from the pack as anything more than a late-night stopover. But this spot's neon sign is definitely a standout. It's in excellent condition, and the wagon wheels that surround it are a reminder of Colorado's kitschier, cowtown, "Wild West" way of decorating.
2) Lake Steam Baths 3540 West Colfax Avenue Another icon of the West Colfax strip, Lake Steam Baths opened in 1927 and is still run by the same family. The no-frills health spa offers plenty of massage and warm temperature services, but it's the facility's old-school neon sign that continues to beckon new customers.
1) Aristocrat Motor Hotel 4855 West Colfax Avenue Installed in 1964, the Aristocrat Motor Hotel's sign is a great preview of what the rest of the space-age building looks like. Though the Aristocrat, too, has moved on from the days of serving travelers, since the early 2000s it's been owned and operated by Volunteers of America, which rents rooms on a nightly basis to families in transition.
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