Curtis Street To Become the Great White Way -- Again

Denver when it was flashy.

Civic boosters recently unveiled new signage going up in the newly christened “Denver Theatre District,” the downtown locale surrounding the Denver Performing Arts Complex and Curtis Street, signage that’s the first step towards transforming the area into a Western version of Times Square.

Sure, this “two-month static image sponsorship,” as the press release imaginatively puts it, is essentially just downtown billboards, but soon there will be much more interesting area developments afoot: three-dimensional installations, street performances, light shows, concert series and wall-scaling LED screens, all part of Denver Theatre District Chairman Walter Isenberg’s plan to fill the district, bordered by Arapahoe and Champa streets, the 16th Street Mall and Speer Boulevard, with development, entertainment and urban activity as a way to connect the arts complex with the pedestrian mall.

Don’t like the idea of downtown being inundated with bright, flashing lights and ads? To provide some perspective on the matter, the idea is nothing new.

Curtis Street, the original center of Denver’s theater scene, was once so filled with lights and illuminated billboards that Thomas Edison called it “the brightest street in America.” Above and below you can see early 20th century photos of this so-called “Great White Way,” courtesy of the Denver Public Library Western History Collection’s Digital Image Collection. -- Joel Warner