West Colfax History

The West Colfax neighborhood was incorporated as a Denver neighborhood in 1887, and with it came the building of Colfax Elementary, streetcars from downtown to Sheridan along Colfax Ave., and the St. Anthony’s Central Hospital. In 1891 a small group on Victorian residents were built in the neighborhood, later known as a the Stuart Street historic district. By the early 1900s, West Colfax became predominantly Jewish as immigrant from central and east Europe began to arrive. The Yeshivas Etz Chaim Hebrew school was built in 1910.

Colfax Avenue was once known as the Golden Road, as it served as the main corridor between Denver and Golden. Traffic consisted of hay wagons, peddlers, and soon trolley lines and bike paths were laid out. In 1917 the Colfax-Larimer viaduct was built, connecting West Colfax directly to Downtown Denver.

By the 1920s, streetcar subdivisions were starting to replace farms in Denver, and West Colfax was no exception. 1925 brought more liberal zoning laws, making way for future adult-oriented shops. Boxer Eddie Bohn opened his Pig N’ Whistle restaurant in 1926 (it later burnt down in 2010), catering to athletes. And the Lake Steam Baths opened in 1927.

The Depression era of the 1930s slowed most growth in West Colfax and the area was becoming increasingly focused on cars. West Colfax Avenue was paved in 1932, and in 1938 Colfax Avenue became a part of the transcontinental route known at US Highway 40. Colfax Avenue remains today the longest street in America; a 26 mile stretch from Aurora, through Denver and Lakewood, to Golden. Post WWII West Colfax Avenue was used as a tourist route into the mountains, creating a boom in motels, restaurants, and other tourist amenities in the neighborhood. By the end of the 1940s Denver streetcars and trolleys were being replaced with cars and busses, and Colfax Avenue was widened several times.

The 1950s brought West Colfax its first public housing, Denver Urban Renewal Authority’s Avondale shopping center, high-rise apartments, and townhomes. It was in 1958 that West Colfax reached its peak in motels to, with 43 along the strip. The building of the Interstate system led to less use of Colfax Avenue though, and with poor pedestrian routes and unfortunate zoning, West Colfax Avenue began to decline.

The Denver Metro area started booming in the 1960s, and the West Colfax neighborhood changed along from servicing tourists to residents. The 1960s and 70s brought more Hispanic, Southeast Asian, and Anglo immigrants to the area.

In the 1990s West Colfax became an area of focus for revitalization efforts, with grants to help improve the neighborhood. The West Colfax Revitalization Plan was complete in 1993, working to improve businesses in the area. In 2002 the City of Denver’s Master Plan, Blueprint Denver, listed West Colfax as an “area of change.” The West Colfax Association of Neighbors (WeCAN) was founded in 2009.

In more recent years, West Colfax has seen the opening of the RTD Light rail W line in 2013, the former St. Anthony’s hospital site has undergone major redevelopment with condos, apartments, and retail moving into the area. The Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Branch Library opened in 2014 and Paco Sanchez Park just down the street opened in 2018.