Colfax & Downing

Everything you need to know about the Mile High City

Tag: jazz

Rossonian Front Door

The Rossonian Hotel

Hi. We’re alive! Forgive our pointless absence. Clare has been working longer hours than usual and we recently traveled to see friends tie the knot, moved all of our belongings into a new place and generally settling into lazy autumn evenings with Crockpot dinners and Netflix. We just finished Bloodline and Narcos. Recommendations?

Let’s talk about the Rossonian. I took these photos on a foggy morning a few weeks ago but have admired the structure since we moved to Denver two years ago. The Rossonian was built in 1912 as a hotel but it became known for its bar and live jazz scene. Our city was still a majorly racist place in those years and black musicians like Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and more were commissioned to perform at other venues in Denver proper but couldn’t stay in the hotels because of their skin. Accommodations at the Rossonian, and Five Points in its entirety, welcomed them. The bar soon became famous for its late night performances by nationally-known singers and jazz artists. It’s not a coincidence that the Five Points Jazz Festival folds around the streets surrounding this hotel every year.

Rossonian Denver

It’s no secret that Five Points and the surrounding neighborhoods continue to become gentrified. Seeing these historical landmarks get an opportunity to renovate and reopen and the variety of houses get facelifts is exciting but, like any decent-hearted Denverite, I hope that it doesn’t come at the expense of the elements that make Five Points what it is. This used to be the heart of the city and it’s been rich in its diversity. Many of the families that have called it home for decades are getting priced out. Damn it, Denver.

The Five Points community suffered from the late 1950s through the late 1990s because of drugs, crime, and urban flight. Many properties were abandoned, the local economy became somewhat irrelevant and the larger market found local business conditions unappealing. Attempts at redevelopment were made but there were many hindrances to reinvestment. The district became a no-man’s land in need of a larger vision and a new generation of leadership.

Five Points has always been a neighborhood with a diverse economic mix of residents, evidenced by the variety of houses there. Mansions were built next to row homes. Many of the rich began moving out of Five Points in the late 19th century to live in the more popular Capitol Hill neighborhood. Five Points was also home to a large Jewish population and is still home to a former synagogue, Temple Emanuel, on the corner of 24th Street and Curtis Street. After World War II, many Japanese-Americans lived in Five Points. Agape Church on the corner of 25th Street and California Street was once a Japanese Methodist church. – Wikipedia

30th and Downing Light Rail Train

Clare articulated my feelings about the hotel when I first showed it to her sometime last year. She was delighted by its very existence, charmed by its story and upset at its current state. While the outside has been carefully preserved, why is this legendary hotel just sitting there like a ghost on the corner of 32nd and Welton?

Rossonian Hotel Denver

The hotel’s shape gives way to a triangular ballroom inside, though I’ve never had the pleasure of exploring it. The Westword wrote a great article back in January about the hotel’s history and future prospects.

Last fall, word leaked that Sage Hospitality — which runs the Oxford Hotel, as well as hotels around the country, and was a partner in the Union Station redevelopment — would partner with Civil Technology to put a luxury hotel in the Rossonian. ‘We are still not far enough for me to confirm anything yet, but I can tell you we’re looking at it,’ Sage spokeswoman Kate Davis said at the time; today she says Sage has no updates.

Meanwhile, the ghosts are clinking their champagne flutes.

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Five Points Jazz Festival Five Points Plaza

Five Points Jazz Festival: Let’s Take That Bassline for a Walk

The irreplaceable B.B. King passed away last Thursday. Two short days later, I’m sure his legacy was on the minds of the soulful singers and musicians at this year’s Five Points Jazz Festival.

In case you live under a rock, Five Points is one of the most historic neighborhoods in Denver. Jazz greats such as Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillepsie (to name a bare few), played the bars and clubs that comprised Welton Street during its heyday. Many of the incredible performers weren’t allowed to stay in the white hotels in which they performed in the downtown area. They were warmly accommodated in Five Points and often played informal gigs late into the night at the Rossonian Hotel. Nicknamed the “Harlem of the West,” it’s plain to see why the jazz roots run deep in northeast Denver.

Beginning in 2004 and taking place on the third Saturday of May each year, the Five Points Jazz Festival is a serious tribute to this complex musical genre. Admission is free and last year was our first time attending. In 2014, the day was hotter than two goats in a pepper patch. This year, it looked like the sky would open up and pour at any moment.

Five Points Jazz Festival Main Stage

Eight different stages featured the USAFA Falconaires with legendary jazz vocalist Ernie Andrews, Sammy Mayfield, Ritmo Latin Jazz, Joe Smith & the Spicy Pickles, Willie “The Blues Man” Houston and dozens more. There was also a “Youth Stage” where fraggles1 carefully plucked their guitars and crooned into microphones. Adorbs.

Five Points Jazz Festival Rossonian Hotel

And the food, people. Funnel cakes, kettle corn, Saratoga chips, pickles, plates piled with Cajun delights and enough beer and fruity rum to kill a pirate. BYE.

There was also this:

We’re ready to take that bassline for a walk at the #FivePointsJazz #FivePointsJazzFestival #denver #jazz 🎷🎼🎶🎺

A video posted by Colfax & Downing (@colfaxanddowning) on

Don’t miss out on this beautiful local tradition next year. Follow the Jazz Festival on Facebook.

Five Points Jazz Festival Mural

Five Points Jazz Festival 2015

1 Anyone under the age of twelve.

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