Five Points was one of the earliest neighborhoods developed outside the original boundaries of the congressional land grant awarded to Denver in 1864. In the late 1860s, several additions to the town were created in anticipation of growth resulting from the completion of railroad systems linking Denver with the East. The first addition within the Five Points Neighborhood – the Case and Ebert Addition – occupied an immense area south of the South Platte River and north of the commercial heart of the settlement at Fifteenth and Larimer Streets. To make the subdivision more attractive to potential homeowners, developers Case and Ebert created a 2.44 acre park on a block of land near the center of the addition. Case and Ebert donated the park to the city when the plat was filed in 1868, becoming the first public park in Denver. The park was named after early settler, Samuel Curtis. The San Rafael Addition in the southeastern part of Five Points was created during the 1874-1886 period. The land was originally part of an eighty-acre homestead claimed by Courtland Clements in 1865. Clements sold the land to a number of prominent businessmen, including developer Henry A. Dubois, Jr. who created a subdivision named after his home town of San Rafael, California.
A number of factors influenced early development in the Five Points Neighborhood. The city’s first streetcar system operated a line ending at Twenty-seventh and Champa in the city’s first streetcar suburb, Curtis Park. During the 1870s, the area surrounding Curtis Park slowly developed into one of the most fashionable of Denver’s early residential areas. Within the neighborhood, both the well-to-do and those of middle class and lesser means were able to purchase lots and erect comfortable homes away from the inner city. The convenient rail access and plentiful water supply in the northeastern portion of the neighborhood attracted industries. The railroad yards, smelters, and other industries in turn brought families who sought homes near their employment. Many of the families drawn to these areas were newly arrived immigrants.
In 1881, the name “Five Points” came into popular usage to denote the intersection of Welton Street, Twenty-seventh Street, Washington Street, and East Twenty-Sixth Avenue. The term was popularized by the Stout Street Herdic Coach Line, which sought an abbreviated designation to put on their cars to identify the five-pointed intersection at the end of the route. Residents of the area were not pleased with the suggested label, since “Five Points” had been used to denote slum areas in several cities after the name of the notorious slum in New York City. “Welton Center” was advanced as an alternative, but never caught on. A number of businesses in the area began using the new name, including Five Points Fuel and Feed, Five Points Hall, and Five Points Block.
By the mid-1880s, Capitol Hill had replaced Five Points as the most prestigious residential area of the city and many of the city’s power elite moved from Five Points to Capitol Hill. Following the Panic of 1893, many of the larger homes of the Five Points area were turned into boarding houses or homeowners took in lodgers to make ends meet. As older residents moved away, new groups found the neighborhood attractive, including many eastern European immigrants, African-Americans, and Latinos. Denver’s small African-American community grew steadily during the nineteenth century. In 1860, census takers recorded only fifteen African-American men and eight women within the city. By 1890, there were 3,923 African-Americans in Denver, most of them confined by segregation into portions of lower downtown and the Five Points Neighborhood.
Enlisted to work in the sugar beet fields, laborers from the Southwest and Mexico began arriving in Denver in record numbers in the period following World War I. The western portion of the Five Points Neighborhood was one of the three areas in Denver where migrants congregated. According the 1940 census, forty-six percent of all Mexican-American households (1,155 total) were located within the Five Points neighborhood.
The commercial area of Five Points attracted a variety of businesses including restaurants, tailors, real estate agencies, saloons, pool halls, doctors, dentists, and a branch of the American Woodmen Insurance Company. The Deep Rock Artesian Water and Bottling Company has been a fixture in the Five Points Neighborhood since 1898. The Rossonian Hotel building was built as the Baxter Hotel in 1912. The George Washington Carver Day Nursery was established in 1916 by the Negro Women’s Club Association of Denver. Precipitated by the deaths of two Anglo children in a fire while their mother was at work, the members of the association decided to establish and operate a low cost, interracial nursery for the children of the neighborhood.
Churches in the Five Points Neighborhood played a pivotal role in the lives of its residents. As Five Points changed, the local churches mitigated social pressures on minority and immigrant groups and encouraged ethnic identity and cultural interaction. The churches in Five Points historically sponsored clubs and social organizations which supported community projects and spread neighborhood services. The congregation of Shorter Chapel, the first African American church established in Colorado, used as their first building, a log structure donated by a Civil War veteran. Zion Baptist, the oldest black Baptist church in Colorado, was founded by ex-slaves in 1865 at Twentieth and Arapahoe. Completed in 1880, Sacred Heart Church was organized and built at Twenty-eighth and Larimer by Bishop Joseph Machebeuf to serve the Irish and Italian immigrants who had settled in the area. Responding to the growth of the Jewish population in northeast Denver, the Temple Emanuel congregation built a temple on Twenty-fourth and Curtis Streets in 1881 which still stands and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Churches reflected the needs and changes among the various ethnic and cultural groups that called Five Points home.
Adapted from Denver Neighborhood Project, 1993-94 Five Points Neighborhood, prepared for the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission and Office of Planning and Community Development by Front Range Associates, Inc. Denver. 1995.