A Quirky and Finessed Urban Hike thru East Colfax
A fun and interesting neighborhood full of finesse and quirkiness sits east of downtown that many people know as East Montclair, but it is officially called East Colfax. It is a neighborhood whose namesake, the wickedest street in America, runs through it. Enjoy this urban hiking adventure through East Colfax neighborhood.
It’s Not East Montclair, Sorry
First, let’s start by saying there’s no such neighborhood as East Montclair. But don’t tell the residents that! The city of Denver doesn’t recognize the neighborhood as such, calling it East Colfax with the boundaries of Quebec to Yosemite, 11th Ave to Montview with a little jut up to E 23rd Ave at Quebec. The official Montclair neighborhood abuts it to the west and has its own separate boundaries.
Wickedest of Them All
Running through the middle of the neighborhood lies what Playboy called the wickedest street in North America, Colfax. Welcoming travelers for years before I70 existed, this piece of Colfax Avenue homes refugees in apartments, visitors in western and aviation-themed motels, and thirsty locals in decorated bars. Walking these blocks makes the decades mix right in front of your eyes. You’ll have no idea what year you’re in.
Who was Colfax? Schulyer Colfax was Speaker of the House, Vice President to Ulysses S Grant, and advocate and co-author of the 14th amendment. He is often credited with leading the movement to abolish slavery.
In the middle of the neighborhood on its northern side, you’ll pass the William McNichols Park. A gorilla welcomes you into the park which is named after a three-time mayor of Denver. His visionary ideals helped build the 16th Street Mall, the Auraria Higher Ed campus, and the Denver Center for Performing Arts, among other Denver landmarks.
A Sidewalk Here, a Sidewalk There
The neighborhood theme of haves and have-nots plays itself out in the sidewalks first. Some streets have them, some don’t. Some sidewalks stop mid-block, while others take you safely for several streets. South of Colfax, you won’t find many sidewalks running east-west, and north of Colfax the sidewalks mostly transit you narrowly north and south.
Dreams to Be Found
Closer to the refugee homes near New Freedom Park, you’ll find urban gardens filled with clover and foreign-looking vegetation. New Freedom Park won awards for the collaboration it went through to pull together the visions and dreams of the neighborhood, creating a park that welcomes everyone. In the middle off the park, you’ll find luscious urban gardens filled with international flavors of plants beaming unique colors and smells.
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The closer you get to the old Stapleton airport, the more you’ll find remnants of old tuberculosis recovery homes. These homes, with their large banks of sunny windows where TB patients would sit in the warm sun to get well, link to the story of the Molkery in Montclair. You’ll also find hold-over, aviation themed bars and hotels where pilots and stewardesses (nee Flight Attendants) rested and layed-over.
Old Dreams, New Dreams, Broken Dreams
Yet no matter the block you walk in the East Colfax neighborhood, it’s a travel through old dreams, new dreams, and broken dreams. From refugees just resettling here in Denver to folks buying their first homes or their third, the East Colfax neighborhood is one that catches the attention of change makers.
As you contemplate what you see on this interesting urban hike, you might want to grab a cuppa at what might be Denver’s best neighborhood coffee shop. On the corner of Quince and Colfax you’ll find the Quince Coffee shop. Grab a spicy chai and a vegan, chocolate-chip pumpkin bread slice, sit on the porch, and contemplate the great things in life.
The Route (click for interactive map):
Start at Verbena Park near 1128 Verbena St. Walk north to E 12th Ave, turn left (west). At Rosemary St, turn right (north) to E 13th Ave, turn left.
At Quince St, turn right. Stop in Quince Essential Coffee for a cuppa, then turn left on Colfax. Cross Colfax at Quebec St, going north (right) up to E 16th Ave, where you’ll turn right.
At Quince, take a left and continue north to E Montview Blvd. Walk to the right along Montview, noticing the difference between the Stapleton neighborhood (now Central Park) on the north side of the street and East Colfax neighborhood on the south.
Turn right (south) on Ulster St. At 1760 Ulster Street, notice the Greeters of America home. Now two residences, it was once the headquarters of the fraternal organization for hotel greeters. Continue south to E 16th Ave and take a left (west.) At Tamarac, take a left (south).
Please note: I originally took this walk in 2017, and the Hangar Bar was still open. It lost itself in the test of time, closing shortly after my visit. But a new cool bar has taken its place, EastFax Tap. Be sure to drop in and discover a new iteration of the East Colfax bar scene.
Stop in the Hangar Bar, now EastFax Tap. Over 75 years old and possibly Colfax’s oldest bar, this tried-and-true aviation bar played host to the pilots and flight attendants flying into the old Stapleton airport. Continue east along Colfax and take a right on Xenia St.
You’ll walk through a block full of apartments housing many refugees. Enjoy the urban gardens and notice the work being done at New Freedom Park to daylight Westerly Creek.
Turn right on E 12th Ave, continuing to Verbena. Turn right and turn back to where you started.
Feeling Quirky in East Colfax and Supporting DenverByFoot
If you’ve enjoyed this walk, maybe you’ll enjoy some other walks curated by Denver By Foot. Get the 52 Hikes 52 Weeks Denver Calendar, which recommends a hike a week, subscribe to the YouTube Channel to hear about weekly hiking suggestions in Denver, and buy access to the Denver By Foot Challenge. The Challenge is 30 activities in Denver to do by foot where you’ll uncover treasures throughout Denver. It’s a great thing to do with friends and family, or even along during our lock down.
Finally, please support Denver By Foot by purchasing Chris Englert’s books, The Best Urban Hikes: Denver and Discovering Denver Parks. Thank you so much!
What did you like about this walk? Post it on Facebook and tag your posts with #denverbyfoot so I can find them.
See you on the trail!
Most of the residents living at the apartment complex Advenir Apartments at Stapleton located between Ulster and Trenton streets, between E. 19th Ave. and East Montview do not realize the building was built on the grounds of a sanitarium.
The Ex-Patients Tubercular Home opened in 1930 at 8000 East Montview. The home’s cow barn was located at East 19th Avenue and Trenton Street.
The home had 81 beds and existed for people who had been treated at other facilities (many of which had a maximum length of stay of only 6 months) but who were still suffering from TB and in need of further care.
The Ex-Patients Tubercular Home closed in 1966.
Here is a write up from the University of Denver archives.
The Aid Association for Ex-Patients of Denver Sanatoriums was founded in 1908 by local Jewish businessmen to help provide funds for temporary housing, medical treatment, and moral and financial support for former Jewish tuberculosis patients trying to get back on their feet. Often interest free loans were provided to help the recovering consumptives begin modest business so they could ultimately support themselves.
The Aid Association of the J.C.R.S. was incorporated in 1911. In 1916, the group bought five acres of land in Denver at 8000 Montview Boulevard and built a structure to house the ex-patients and provide assistance with vocational training. In the 1920s, it became known as the Ex-Patients’ Tubercular Home, and its goal was “to provide a home and care for patients who have been directed from a tuberculosis hospital or sanatorium, who are in need of further treatment, and to rehabilitate those patients so they will again become self-respecting and self-supporting citizens.”
After tuberculosis came under control in the 1950s, the Ex-Patients’ Home became the Mental Health Center of America and closed its doors in the 1960s and was later razed.
The property now is home to the Advenir Apartments at Stapleton.
Thank you for sharing this great info!
Thank you for sharing this great info!
The current statistical neighborhood name designated by the city of Denver in 1970 is the “East Colfax” neighborhood.
The history of the neighborhood starts with the historic town of “Montclair” being platted and created in 1885. The towns boundaries extended all the way eastward to Yosemite from Monaco between E. 11th Ave. and E. 18th Ave.
In 1902 the city of Denver annexed the town of Montclair and it became part of Denver. The city designated neighborhood names in 1970 based on currently existing neighborhood names or major thoroughfares in the area, so for our area of the city designated it as the “East Colfax” neighborhood.
In 1972 the Kensington apartments were built between Syracuse and Trenton, and E. 11th 2 E. 12th Ave.
In 1972 the East Montclair neighborhood Association was formed to fight sidewalk assessments on houses bordering the newly built apartments. The city and the apartment management company wanted to assess nearby residents in order to build new sidewalk surrounding the apartment complex. Many of the homeowners in the area were seniors and on fixed income and unable to afford these assessments and felt as though it should be the apartment complex that should bear the cost for construction of sidewalks around the new units. Eventually the owners of the apartment complex would pay for sidewalks to be installed and surrounding homeowners were not assessed for their installation.
The early pioneers of the neighborhood association chose the name East Montclair because historically which is documented in maps and documents, this area was called East Montclair.
The debate on the neighborhood name whether East Colfax or East Montclair has been ongoing ever since. With the rejuvenation and importance of East Colfax as a major thoroughfare through our neighborhood we may want to look together as a community as what name is appropriate to call our neighborhood.
I love this. I know that neighborhood names are quite controversial. Since I’m walking all 78 Denver neighborhoods, and not just my favorites or the popular ones, I have to use some sort of system. Thus, I picked the City-Data system. The very same issue occurs all over (see Stapleton, Five Points, Elyria-Swansea.)