Five Points and Its Current Gentrification

LISTEN: Interview with Ms. Stephanie Cross and Ms. Tracy Winchester

Sydney Cross-Watts ’20

The 715 Club. 26th and Downing. Photo by Sydney Cross-Watts ’20

The Story of Five Points

Written in Denver’s unique history is Five Points, residing northeast of downtown it is the base of the African American Denver community. Through the openings of many businesses and the quick growth of this community, when most often spoken about we hear about the elaborate jazz. This historic community is now losing some of its unique heritage with its recent gentrification.

The Five Points Community was initially initiated between the 1870s and 1893. During this time Denver was one of the fastest growing cities among many others.

The Name

The name Five Points was found from its shape angeling from Washington Street, 27th Street, 26th Avenue, and Welton Street. Not everyone was pleased with this name because it brought to mind the distinguished New York City neighborhood that was one of the most known slums in the 1900’s. They thought this name didn’t fit the developments of the neighborhood.

Development

The development of the Five Points neighborhood was made up of many establishments ranging from businesses to churches. One of the first churches being Zion Baptist Church which was established in 1865 and it is Colorado’s oldest African American congregation. Manual High School was established in 1894 in the Five Points neighboring community of Whittier.  Five Points changed as those of higher wealth moved out as transportation in Denver was changing. Five Points still to this day continues to hold its own wealth as many of the different structures are made of brick which has attracted its new generation of residents.

Five Points Culture

During the 1930’s 1940’s and 1950’s Five Points was in its peak of being the cultural, and entertainment destination. Five Points had many nightspots where they hosted jazz, and blues. They had businesses such as the Rossonian located in the soul of Five Points which held some of Jazz’s great names such as; Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Nat King Cole. Many of these artist stayed in Five Points after their performances because many places in Denver would not house them. The Rossonian has sat empty for many years, and now something will be finally located inside. The Five Points neighborhood also holds an annual festival on the blocks of Welton.  This festival is called Juneteenth. Juneteenth is celebrated by African Americans on the nineteenth of June as an anniversary for the emancipation of slaves in Texas in 1865. With the demographics of the neighborhood changing in the early twenty- first century many of the businesses were left empty. Many of these businesses have been filled. After many years the question that comes to mind is, “If the culture of the community is still there?”

Five Points Today

    With the property value of many businesses and homes going up due to the easy transportation, it has attracted many millennials to the Five Points area.

I interviewed Ms. Stephanie Cross a Five Points native, and also Ms. Tracy Winchester who is the Executive Director of, the Five Points Business District.

I asked them, “If the latest changes in Five Points has included the original history of the neighborhood?”

Ms. Stephanie Cross answered that she thinks, “ Tracy Winchester as the Executive Director of the Five Points Business District is always doing her best to make sure that the history is always included in some fashion.”

Ms. Winchester answered , “What I  am really focused on is that the Weltons Street Quarter will be defined as a Historical Cultural District, and as a result of that some buildings can never be torn down. If something is to be built new it has to conform to the neighborhood.” As the neighborhood has began to be modernized it has also kept its original history.

I asked, “Do you think the culture of the neighborhood has stayed the same?”

Ms. Tracy Winchesters response to this was, “My question would be to anyone…who’s neighborhood has stayed the same over the past one hundred years? The neighborhood that has probably stayed the same is a neighborhood that hasn’t experienced any growth.” This is a strong statement because with any change comes growth.

The next question I asked was, “What do you think the culture of the neighborhood will look like in the next ten to fifteen years?”

Ms. Winchester answered, “The demographics of the neighborhood, had changed already by 2010. The last time we did the census it was fifty percent Anglo, twenty-five percent African American, and twenty-five percent Latino. When we have the 2020 census these numbers will probably shift again. I think depending on what part of Five Points you are looking at, I think that there will always be some parts of Five Points that has a large number of African Americans but, we have to remember that there are not a lot of African Americans in the state of Colorado to begin with. In the city of Denver, African Americans make up of about ten percent, and of the whole state only four percent. The Latino population is growing and will continue to grow. I think the middle income will want to move back in as well, and also millennials, it will be a younger demographic. African Americans will still want to live here as long as they can afford to.”

Ms. Cross answered, “ Hopefully the culture will be the same as it was five or six years ago because the culture has changed a bit, with the arrival of new neighbors. Hopefully within the next ten to fifteen years, Five Points will still have some type of culture, especially around music or art whether or not it is totally African American or not. Hopefully it will be a diverse type of culture.

I asked Ms. Cross, “What were some of your favorite memories growing up in Five Points?”

“My favorite memories would definitely be during the summer time. We were able to hangout on the porch, playing with our neighbors on the the block. All the neighbors knew and respected each other. We would walk to Glenarm our recreation center, and to our park across the street. Family would come over on Sundays and chill for a little bit. Also, being around those we went to school with, we all lived in the same neighborhood together.”

I ended the interview with a question to Ms. Winchester, “What are some changes you have implemented through the Five Points Business District Office for the history of the neighborhood to not be forgotten?”

“I always give credit first to Mayor Wellington Webb and his wife, State Representative Wilma Webb. Who made it their mission to establish the Blair- Caldwell African American Research Library on Welton Street, in 2003. That was an important critical moment for us because now we know that the library will be here and will be supported by the city, and supported by friends of the library to make sure that our history is preserved. Not just the African American history in Colorado but, in the whole Western region. That library will be there long after you, and I both.”

The Five Points Neighborhood  has experienced many changes throughout the years. Through these changes we have seen the growth of a neighborhood. If you are living or moving into this neighborhood please take the time to really know the true history and wealth of this neighborhood.

Sources:

https://history.denverlibrary.org/five-points-whittier-neighborhood-history
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/25/denver-five-points_n_3792436.html


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