Commercial Resources of the East Colfax Avenue Corridor
The multiple property listing Commercial Resources of the East Colfax Avenue Corridor is organized around the resources located along East Colfax Avenue from Grant Street to Colorado Boulevard, located in the City and County of Denver, Colorado.
This multiple property submission provides a context for understanding the evolution of the area as a commercial corridor, as well as a basis for evaluating the physical resources resulting from these commercial activities. It includes information on extant resources dating from 1880 through 1968 for properties that directly front onto East Colfax Avenue and all cross-street properties that immediately abut properties that front East Colfax Avenue.
The document defines several historic contexts, but commercially oriented properties are the focus. The first context, The Beginnings: “Open Prairie”, covers the construction of Colfax Avenue in 1868, named for Vice President Schuyler Colfax, through 1880. During this time the transportation corridor featured open prairie and little else. The second context, The Boom of the 1880s and the Growth of Rapid Transit, defines the early development along Colfax up to 1890s, which consisted mostly of stately mansions on the western portion of East Colfax. The significant section of this context involves the development of cable cars, which established routes of mass transit along the corridor.
Directly addressing contexts for commercial properties in The Rise of Apartments and Diversification of Building Functions, the document covers the shift from residential to commercial buildings along Colfax from the Panic of 1893 to 1920. In 1910, Denver adopted an ordinance allowing construction of commercial buildings on Colfax Avenue without the consent of other property owners on the block. This resulted in a boom of commercial developments, such as the Mammoth Skating Rink, and the cessation of residential development. The next context, Automobility and Construction in the 1920s, addresses the trend away from mass transportation to automobiles during the 1920s and 1930s. In the mid-1920s Colfax became a part of the transcontinental highway, US 40, which led to a widening of the road and a marked shift in zoning towards business. Two Colorado Supreme Court cases solidified the commercial identity of the area involving the construction of the Weicker Storage Depository in 1925 and the Block Flora / Paradise Cleaners in 1932. In both cases, the Supreme Court allowed building permits based upon the commercial character of the district. The following context, The Early Post-World War II Years, spans from 1940 to 1968 and is the last context applicable for properties over 50 years at this point. East Colfax was a place of community gathering and ethnic diversity at its schools and religious institutions, and a place for families at the many movie theaters and lunch counters. Many of the older houses that still remained gained commercial additions and new buildings exemplified streamlined Art Moderne in the 1930s and early 1940s. Later they adopted the exaggerated Mid-Century Modern architectural styles, such as the Googie-style White Spot restaurant. Also during this time, the buses replaced the street car system. The final two contexts, Transformations in the Late Twentieth Century and Twenty-First Century Revival, set the stage for future nominations as more recent buildings become at least fifty years old, and therefore more likely to be eligible to the National Register.
The document defines five property types associated with commercial resources that reflect the evolution of the East Colfax Corridor from a residential to a business district.
General Use Commercial Building
Entertainment and Recreation Building
Hotel / Motel Building
Transportation Related Building
House with Commercial Addition
The following Denver City and County properties currently listed on the National Register are formally linked to this multiple property submission. To learn more about these properties, see the individual property entries on the Denver City and County pages, under the listings section.
Bastien’s Restaurant is an important representative of the Googie style. This 1958 building reflects a local interpretation by a Colorado architect of the Googie movement that originated in Southern California for coffeehouse design in response to the growing automobile culture, new materials and technologies, and space age visions of the future.
Designed by architect Louis L. Armét of Los Angeles, California, the 1967 White Spot Restaurant is an excellent example of increasingly rare Googie style architecture. Popular during the 1950s and 1960s and influenced by car culture and the Space Age, the futuristic style originated in Southern California and spread across the United States, becoming a particularly popular style for coffee shops, diners, and motels near major commercial roadways through the 1970s.
The primary mover in the development, funding, and creative direction of the theater was Helen Bonfils. She commissioned its construction in memory of her parents, Belle and Frederick G. Bonfils. Designed in 1949 by Denver architect John K. Monroe, the theater opened in 1953 as the new home of the Denver Civic Theater.
The two-story brick Mediterranean style building was designed by Denver architect, Harry W.J. Edbrooke. It is one of three theaters constructed, owned, and operated by John Thompson and J.A. Goodridge, primary owners of the International Amusement Company, in the fashionable Capitol Hill neighborhood during the 1910s.