Originally, Colfax was known to residents of Denver in the early 20th century as “No Man’s Land”, and “Jim Town.” This area was sparsely settled but did contain several mansions of wealthy families as well as scattered squatters’ shacks.
A large wave of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe came into the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Attracted by others with similar language, cultural and religious backgrounds, the immigrants made “No Man’s Land” into Denver’s version of a European neighborhood.
As the neighborhood grew, so did its problems, and this lead to an interest in incorporation. Two factions appeared: those who favored incorporation of the whole community under the name “Colfax” and those who would have the business section, a strip along Golden Avenue just west of the river, remain separate under the name “Brooklyn.” When Colfax did incorporate in 1891, Brooklyn seceded but then returned the following year. This area, 9.5 blocks long and 2.5 blocks wide, had, at the time, 300 inhabitants. The town of Colfax was annexed to Denver in 1897. The name “Golden Avenue” was officially changed to “West Colfax Avenue.” This great cross town avenue was named for Schuyler Colfax.
West Colfax Avenue was the main street of this small town. It was lined with two-story brick commercial buildings, stores, saloons, a restaurant, a meeting hall and even a hotel. West Colfax had a constant flow of hay wagons and peddlers, since all traffic en route to Denver from the agricultural communities of Golden and Morrison converged here.
In the 1920’s two public schools, Colfax and Lake Junior High School, were opened in the area to meet the challenges of a growing neighborhood. The Depression years saw little or no development in the West Colfax neighborhood. In the 1940s and mid 50s, a housing boom occurred, characteristic of the “Filling In” era. Most vacant land west of Utica Street was purchased for home building. West Colfax, along with the Barnum and Sloan Lake areas experienced this housing boom simultaneously.
The mayoral administrations of the 1950s promoted civil bond issues that funded the construction of public housing in and near West Colfax. The 1960s brought a wave of Latino immigration. The 1970s brought young Anglo families into the neighborhood, and in the mid 70s the first wave of southeast Asian families settled in the neighborhood. Today, West Colfax is a neighborhood of varied ethnic make-up with Anglo, Jewish, African American, Latino, Native American, and southeast Asian residents.