History And Jazz in Denver's Five Points Neighborhood

Posted by Bruce Swedal on Thursday, August 5th, 2010 at 7:36pm.

five-points_237Five Points is one of the most historic neighborhoods in the city of Denver. It has recently undergone a period of development that has seen the population changed and diversified from its African-American roots. There is still a strong sense of history tied to the neighborhood, however, and it is often considered the heart of the city's African-American community.

The Five Points neighborhood is so named because it is located at the point where the diagonal grid of downtown Denver meets East Denver's rectangular grid, creating a five way intersection where Washington Street, 26th Avenue, 27th Street and Welton Avenue meet. The neighborhood lies within the East Side of Denver.

Five Points is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Denver. Much of the neighborhood's growth occurred during the 1860s and there are many interesting, historic properties still standing within the area.

Five Points has undergone a lot of redevelopment in recent times, with many of the old Victorian homes being restored, and new, high end lofts being constructed in the area. The light rail and the proximity of the neighborhood to downtown Denver have attracted many new people into the neighborhood. It is considered to be one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city.

Five Points was the first neighborhood in Denver to have a predominantly African-American population, and the area is still known for its jazz history. During the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, the Five Points neighborhood had an abundance of bars and clubs that played host to some of the most famous names in jazz. Miles Davis, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington were among those who played in the neighborhood. The Five Points neighborhood and its jazz bars were mentioned by the novelist Jack Kerouac in On the Road.

The history of the neighborhood and its African-American heritage can be explored in the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center, which is located within Five Points. The Blair-Caldwell African-American Research Library is also situated within Five Points.

There is still a strong African-American community in Five Points, which is often considered the symbolic heart and historic home of the modern African-American community in the Denver area. The Five Points neighborhood is today a far more diverse community than it used to be, however.

The Five Points Jazz Fest is still held in the neighborhood every year. It forms part of Denver's series of free concerts and is organized by the city's Office of Cultural Affairs.

The Juneteenth festival is a major annual attraction in the neighborhood. The celebrations begin at Manual High School and progress down to Five Points' Welton Street, where street performers and merchants gather to entertain the crowds. This festival celebrates the abolition of slavery.

Art and culture still plays an important role in the life of Five Points. The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Studio, located within the neighborhood, makes a major contribution to the artistic life of the city. Dancers from this studio have performed not just in Denver, but also around the world.


Bruce Swedal
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