Five Points Neighborhood. Filled with Pride
“Five Points isn’t a neighborhood,” said our guide, “it’s a location manufactured by Denver’s Tramway and made up of several neighborhoods who didn’t want to be called Five Points.”
Okay, got it.
Thus, if you look at the City of Denver’s list of 78 neighborhoods, the City does, in fact, call the area Five Points. Yet it doesn’t call it by the many neighborhoods within, including RiNo, Curtis Park, or Ballpark. Never the less, on this walk through Five Points (bounded by roughly a triangle shape of N Downing St, 20th St, and the Platte River) you will manage to cover the Curtis/Metizo Park area, the actual “Five Points,” and a titch of RiNo.
I want to thank John Hayden, a long-time resident and local realtor who joined me on this walkk. We concentrated on the theme of preservation and protection in a neighborhood that at one time was burned-out and almost burned down.
Jazz, Jack, Neal Were Here
The City of Denver has a love-hate relationship with Five Points that, over time, has morphed it into an interesting eclectic set of homes filled with the rich and the poor living right next to each other. On one street you’ll find Neal Cassady’s father’s barber shop across the street from what was once the Snowden, his boyhood home, that has been replaced by million-dollar town homes. Across from it you’ll find a refuge for homeless women which is diagonal from an actors’ studio. No matter which block you walk in Five Points, there is a story to tell.
Love and Flavor Everywhere
Sandwiched on blocks full of residences, you’ll find fabulous places to eat. The Curtis Park Deli has the best smoked trout sandwich I’ve ever eaten, and around the corner is the restored Curtis Park Creamery, a long-standing, dine-out only, Mexican cafe serving up the neighborhood’s best tamales. The name is left over from the days when the locals kids licked up soft-serve ice cream.
Where the Music Plays
At the “Five Points” intersection, the area where five streets come together as a by-product of Denver’s two street grid systems clashing, the beat of the neighborhood is itching to drum again. The Rossonian, once the heartbeat of Five Points and filled with be-bopping jazz and energetic sounds that attracted some of the best jazz musicians of the ’20-60’s, sits across from a wonderful mural telling Five Points’ story. You can also read many excerpts about the area from Jack Kerouac’s, On the Road, or Neal Cassady’s, First Third.
Artesian Water, Too
Around the corner from the Five Points, which was actually the name of the bus stop (all five street names wouldn’t fit on a sign), you’ll find Deep Rock Water, a company that has been pulling artesian water out of Denver’s aquifer for over 100 years. Its success has often clashed with the neighborhood. As it has wanted to grow, it bought homes and replaced them with bottling shops and parking lots. In response, the Five Points residents organized to outmaneuver Deep Rock’s growth by working with each other to establish their homes and blocks as historic landmarks on the National Historic Landmark Register.
Saving the Past, Loving the Future
The historic board that oversees the neighborhood isn’t opposed to modern homes, but those modern homes must hearken to the old Victorians of the time, nicely carrying forward the architectural elements of the past. In block after block, you’ll see old Victorians next to a moderns. Notice how the shapes of the windows and the facades of the newer homes compliment those of the older homes, with window shapes and placements similar in style.
You’re Welcome Here
New energy is afoot everywhere in the neighborhood, but here in Five Points, that momentum takes energy from its past. The Puritan Pie Company will open soon as the urban extension of the Rocky Mountain Land Library. The red brick just up from the five points intersection with the restored Coca-cola mural will soon become a brewery. Five Points, learning from its past, wants earnestly to keep its color and flavor.
8/2019 Update: The Rocky Mountain Land Library decided to open its urban location in Globeville.
Finally, a trip through Five Points isn’t complete without a walk through the Crush alley. A four-block group of alleys housing some of the world’s best street art invites walkers to glimpse at world-class street art and graffiti. Now grown to over 100 murals throughout RiNo, look for its annual Crush festival in September of every year.
And as a final note, “…gentrification poses challenges to the character of Five Points as housing prices and property taxes increase. In 2010 whites outnumbered blacks and Latinos in the neighborhood, and the median price of a house soared 31 percent from 2009 to 2013. For now, longstanding local institutions like Zion Baptist Church, popular community celebrations like Juneteenth and the Five Points Jazz Festival, and the adaptive reuse of historic buildings continue to keep the rapidly changing neighborhood connected to its past (https://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/five-points).”
Go Walk Five Points
With such history, interest, and variety, your walk through Five Points could take all day. Below is a shorter-than-normal route at only 2 miles. It’s packed full of everything mentioned above. Be sure to stop for lunch at any of the great places to eat, which you’ll find sprinkled throughout the neighborhood or joined together at the five points intersection.
The Route (click for interactive map):
Start at 2501 Stout Street, be careful to park where you’re not limited to two hours. Walk northwesterly to Champa Street, take a right.
Pass the Curtis Street Deli on your right. The short, little one story building that is in need of restoration is Neal Cassady’s dad’s barber shop. Opposite the barber shop is where the Snowden was.
Continue along Champa street past the Puritan Pie Company. The smell of the baking pies once masked the moonshine Kerouac and Cassady made next door.. Take a right on 27th Ave.
Continue along 27th, past Deep Rock Water to the original five points intersection. Take a 360 view of the intersection, noticing the Rossonian, the mural and the new places to eat. Walk northeasterly to the left along Welston to the Yuye mural on the side of the forthcoming brewery.
Take a left on 28th St. Notice the changes in architecture and successful salvage and restoration as you make your way to Champa again. Take a right on Champa.
Continue to 30th street and take a left. At Curtis take a left. Continue to 27th and take right. Cross Larimer, noticing the new Central market, then take a left into the alley.
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You’ll be in Crush alley. It technically goes for several blocks, and the artists have expanded their work all over RiNo, including Blake St, Walnut St, and Broadway. If the art hasn’t made you veer off the route, take a left on 26th, crossing back over Larimer.
At Curtis Street, take a right. At 25th, take a left and return back to Children’s Park where you started.
A huge thank you to John Hayden for sharing this route and his thirty plus years living in Five Points with me.
A Jazzy Urban Hike through Five Points and Supporting Denver By Foot
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.
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!
Wasn’t this a fun walk?
See you on the trail