Keeping Colfax weird: Ten spots that give Denver's main street its culture and character

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Pete's Kitchen: one of a handful of Pete's Colfax enterprises and one of many great Colfax diners.
With the closure of Smiley's Laundromat and last month's bust and subsequent shuttering of Kitty's East, Colfax Avenue lost a little of its glittery seediness. Progress is a constant along this main drag, and has been for life of the city -- but still, Colfax isn't known for its betterment projects. Rather, the east-to-west strip runs right through the heart of Denver's history with its stretch of sights that are a little bit sketchy but always entertaining.

From diners to dives to tattoo parlors, we've rounded up ten of the best spots to find the weirdo culture for which Colfax Avenue will continue to be famous (we hope).

See also:
- The Best Store on Colfax - 2013 - The Collection Studio
- Goodbye, Kitty's East. I never knew ye. Ever.
- Smiley's, the world's largest laundromat, is gone


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Goodbye, Kitty's East. I never knew ye. Ever.

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Instagram user saibot34
When I was in high school, I had a friend whose dad called all porn shops "the fuck book store." Mostly, though, he was referring to the joint next to the Bluebird Theatre, because he was very suspicious that we went to that venue so often -- although for seventeen-year-old, third-wave rude boys and girls like us, it was where the bigger ska shows took place in 1997. Shows that we were old enough to get into, anyway.

We never even attempted to go into that fuck book store (or Adult Book Store, as I think it was called before it became part of the Pleasures chain). We just stood outside and smoked cigarettes, waiting for the show next door to start. Even so, when word spread over the weekend that an even more legendary fuck book store on East Colfax, Kitty's East, had closed, I was a little sad. Partly because I had never set foot in the sordid institution, but also because another piece of the sacred sketchy strip of Denver was going away.

See also:
- The 2UP leases Kitty's East space
- Goodbye, Smiley's Laundromat -- your ghosts are hung out to dry
- Meow Nix: A moment of silence for Kitty's South. Now, could this defunct adult emporium ever be porn again as a music hall?


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Goodbye, Smiley's Laundromat -- your ghosts are hung out to dry

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If you grew up in Lakewood, Aurora, Wheat Ridge or Denver proper like me, chances are good that there's a slice of Colfax Avenue that holds a special, if not dangerous and possibly regrettable, meaning to you.

Last week I passed by Smiley's Laundromat on East Colfax and noticed that it was all closed up -- windows hung floor-to-ceiling with plastic, no sign of life or the burned-into-memory checkered floors that I'd spent the laundry days of my early twenties skating around while hustling my own dirty clothes in a low-cut shirt. The fantastic handpainted signage still adorns the glass, promising same-day service and free wifi. But Smiley's isn't closed for a remodel. It's gone.

See also:
- Smiley's Laundromat survives the recession to dry another day
- Neon signs and Colfax Avenue: The beauty and danger of nostalgia
- How to survive Casa Bonita, the world's weirdest Mexican restaurant


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Photos: Denver diorama finds new home in History Colorado Center lobby

Categories: Denver History

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Lovers of the Denver diorama, rejoice! On Friday and Saturday, visitors to the History Colorado Center can watch the Lilliputian tribute to circa-1860 Denver being reassembled in the museum's lobby. The much-loved exhibit, which was crafted in the 1930s by federal work programs workers, was cut apart in order to be moved when the museum relocated to a new building. Now that the impressive piece -- and its impressive tiny cats -- has been put back together, conservator Judy Greenfield is working to carefully disguise the seams.

But before the reassembly began in the lobby, Westword got a rare up-close-and-uncovered look at the diorama. Check out our photos below!

See also:
- The new History Colorado Center is an architectural triumph
- Ten shows the History Colorado Center should have opened with
- Blinky the Clown made history...does he belong in History Colorado?


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Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre: a peek inside the 121-year-old building

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A view from the balcony of the Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre. Slide show: A Tour of the Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre
When the Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre closed in 1991, the fate of the century-old building was uncertain. Although the city said it wanted to save this last vestige of the original Elitch Gardens Amusement Park, there was no money for the project. So in 2002, the Historic Elitch Theatre Foundation was created to not just remind people of this piece of cultural history, but actually restore it. Since then, the non-profit has been able to stabilize the structure, but without enough funding, a full renovation has been out of reach.

So this Tuesday, December 4, the Highlands Garden Cafe will host a Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre Holiday Benefit to raise both interest and money for the massive undertaking. In advance of the fundraiser, the organization gave Westword a peek at the grand space, which has sat unused -- but hardly unloved -- for more than two decades.

For more photos, visit our full slide show: "A Tour of the Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre."

See also:
- Slide show: A Tour of the Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre
- Radium and roller coasters: A brief, dirty history of Elitch Gardens
- Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre Holiday benefit
- Another Act for the Elitch Theatre
- For Your Amusement: The city is up to its neck in the old Elitch's


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Neal Cassady: The Denver Years gets in gear at 3 Kings tomorrow

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Neal Cassady captured in 1944 Denver Police Department mug shots.
Born and raised in Denver, Heather Dalton has long nurtured affection for one of the city's proudest cultural alumni: Neal Cassady, the larger-than-life literary macho-muse who inspired the character of Dean Moriarty, hero of Jack Kerouac's On the Road. For the past several years, Dalton, a musician, filmmaker and producer at Colorado Public Television, has been hard at work on Neal Cassady: The Denver Years, which documents Cassady's difficult youth in Prohibition-era Denver.

Cassady's exploits in D-Town are the stuff of local legend: his brief stint as a student at East High School, his time in a correctional facility for boys, his days following his father through the alleyways and dive bars of Larimer Street. Drawn from Cassady's memoir, The First Third, as well as her own extensive research, Dalton's film explores the mythology behind the man whose personality and spirit inspired many writers -- and led to the creation of one very famous scroll.

See also:
- Keeping the Beat: Musician David Amram remembers Neal Cassady
- Street artist Theo on Banksy, Jack Kerouac and running from the cops
- Jack Kerouac wrote here: Crisscrossing America chasing cool


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Denver historian Phil Goodstein takes on Park Hill in his latest book

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Denver historian Phil Goodstein.
Having already chronicled Denver's ghosts, street names and Jewish communities, local historian Phil Goodstein is digging into familiar ground in his latest book on our city's forgotten past: Park Hill, the neighborhood where he once lived.

Goodstein will appear at Tattered Cover Colfax tonight to discuss and sign copies of his book; we recently sat down with this man of yesteryear to get a sneak peak at what Park Hill Promise has to offer.

See also:
Ghost Adventures host Zak Bagans comes to Denver, meets Phil Goodstein, acts like a child
Historian Phil Goodstein on knowing the past and shaping the present in Denver
The history of cannabis in Colorado...or how the state went to pot


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Riverside Cemetery is offering moonlight history and mystery tours

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Riverside's historic crematorium.

If you like Colorado history, gravestone architecture and walking above thousands of dead bodies at night, then Riverside Cemetery has a deal for you! Starting tomorrow and continuing through October 27, the cemetery will be offering its annual Moonlight History and Mystery Tour. Then on Monday, October 29, Riverside will host its Moonlight Euphoria photo shoot, where all levels of photographers can photograph the cemetery under a full moon.

See also:
- Get Spooked at Riverside Cemetery
- Grave Surprises -- Dig into the mysteries of Riverside Cemetery

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Want to know more about the 16th Street Mall? Denver Story Trek's got an app for that!

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Historic Denver, Inc.
Any true city rises on a foundation of stories, and Denver, with its Wild West roots and City Beautiful continuum, more than qualifies as a storied metropolis. Plenty of the best ones are set along the 16th Street Mall, which celebrates its thirtieth birthday -- only a drop in the bucket of relative time -- this week. How much do you know about the evolution of the mall? Not as much as you thought?

One way to find out is by using Denver Story Trek, an interactive recorded tour spotlighting the mall right now, at special stations where you can listen to mall stories or even leave your own personal memories.

See also:


- From the Archives: Denver's 16th Street a century ago

- Thirty years in, the 16th Street Mall is still going strong
- Smoking at Paramount Cafe and 86'd from Coyote Ugly: Happy birthday, 16th Street Mall
- A guide to the vendors on the 16th Street Mall
- 16th Street Mall: Shopping Scenes
- Ten best patios on the 16th Street Mall

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From the Archives: Denver's 16th Street a century ago

Categories: Denver History

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Although 16th Street hasn't always been a pedestrian mall, for at least the last hundred years of the city's history it has been a Denver destination, a favorite for parade routes and other special events as well as a focal point for much of this city's day-to-day business. These pictures, printed in the publication Denver Municipal Facts, demonstrate 16th Street's evolution over the last century, and the past and present hustle and bustle that has made the busy public promenade the place it is today.

See also:

- Thirty years in, the 16th Street Mall is still going strong

- From the Archives: St. Cajetan's Church barely escaped demolition

- From Auraria's archives: Degrees of separation from Thomas Hornsby Ferril's autograph

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