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In Denver, Beat Starts to Pick Up in a Once-Thriving Hub for Jazz

DENVER — At one time, the best place to hear live jazz between St. Louis and San Francisco was along Welton Street in Denver, where Duke and Ella were among the marquee legends stopping by to perform.

Dozens of night spots and clubs dotted Welton Street in the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Five Points for more than half the 20th century, making it a premier destination that some called the Harlem of the West.

The neighborhood’s rich heritage was recognized in 2002 through its designation as a cultural historic district. Its fragile history remains a living memory for some, and it has been commemorated with an archive at the local public library and in the literature of Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation.

For much of the 1920s to 1950s, the neighborhood provided a haven for African-American residents, who gravitated to areas where housing discrimination was less prevalent and segregation less visible. But much like the urban centers of other cities and other pockets of Denver, Five Points began declining in the 1960s and ’70s and has yet to return to its robust past.


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