Monday, November 27, 2017

The Story of Modern East Denver by Phil Goodstein

Phil Goodstein, The Story of Modern East Denver: Magnificent Mayfair, Beautiful Bellevue, Hale, Hilltop, Hospitals.  Denver: New Social Publications, 2017.  ISBN 0–9860748–3–7.  vi + 474 pp.  Illustrations.  Index.  $24.95.

Nobody has written more about Colfax than Phil Goodstein.  In such volumes as the Ghosts of Denver, The Denver Civic Center, and North Side Story, he has looked at the character of the road between Colorado Boulevard west to the city limits at Sheridan Boulevard.  His Park Hill Promise covers the north side of the street from Colorado Boulevard to Syracuse Street.  Now he has added to this by focusing on the south side of Colfax between Colorado Boulevard and Monaco Street Parkway in The Story of Modern East Denver: Magnificent Mayfair, Beautiful Bellevue, Hale, Hilltop, Hospitals.

When residential development started to emerge east of Colorado Boulevard near Colfax in the 1880s, Colfax was still something of a rural road.  A branch of the Mayfair Ditch ran along it, eventually draining into City Park.  Efforts soon saw the extension of streetcar lines east of York Street.  Businesses popped up on the boulevard near substantial houses.  In 1902, the Denver Orphans’ Home occupied its new premises at the northwest corner of Colfax Avenue and Albion Street.  For a while, it had a school of its own, Albion Street, across the road at the northeast corner of the intersections.

In the course of the mid-20th century, Colfax east of Colorado Boulevard was an exemplar of middle-class retail.  Some stores, such as the Dolly Madison at Colfax Avenue and Forest Street and the nearby Colfax Radio & Appliance at 5128 Colfax Avenue were crucial parts of the city’s business scene.  The Mayfair Shopping Center at 14th Avenue and Krameria Street, opened in 1951, was once the city’s busiest shopping center.  It blended it with stores on Colfax.  Among them was the city’s leading toy store, Guys and Dolls, at the southeast corner of Krameria Street next to a Walgreens.

During much of the 20th century, Colfax was a premier automobile-oriented boulevard.  Not only were there numerous filling stations along the road, but such new car dealers as Empire Olds, Seifert Pontiac, and Deane Buick were on the arterial.  So were car washes, body shops, car rental agencies, and tire dealerships.  As The Story of Modern East Denver notes, such businesses are still part of the fabric of Colfax.

Business improvement and leadership has been another Colfax theme.  In the mid-20th century, the East Denver Civic Association claimed ownership of the strip.  Then, in the 1980s, groups such as Colfax United and Colfax to the Limits emerged, seeking to forge business partnerships to improve the image of the famed arterial.  The 21st century, as the volume observes, has been marked by the formation of the Fax Partnership and the Colfax–Mayfair Business Improvement District.

This is but the beginning of the volume’s wide-ranging emphasis on Colfax.  Included is the time when stripper joints invaded the road in the 1970s, followed by used bookstores in the 1980s.  The Story of Modern East Denver highlights both achievements and failures.  Not only does it address the people who have lived nearby, but it is a balanced measure of what Colfax has been all about.  Anybody interested in the road will want to read it.

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