Land for Curtis Park at 30th Avenue and Champa Street, Denver’s first public park, was donated in 1868, while the city was still in its infancy. The Curtis Park neighborhood was also the first of Denver’s many “street-car” suburbs; by 1871, horse-draw streetcars ran on rails that stretched along Champa between Downtown and 27th Street. Other lines soon followed on nearby Larimer, Curtis, Stout, and Welton Streets.
As area boosters never tired of pointing out, several of the city’s early movers and shakers lived in the neighborhood, among them, Mayor Wolfe Londoner, merchant Jay Joslin, and Colorado Governor William Gilpin. Ornate front porches, high ceilings, elongated windows, and flat roofs featured prominently in the Italianate-style brick homes that were popular at the time.
Many of Curtis Park’s stately Victorian-Era homes underwent extensive renovations in the early 1980’s, kicking off a renaissance that continues to this day. The very favorable location, immediately north of the central business district, continues to play a significant role in the neighborhood’s persistent allure — that, and housing prices which represent some of the best values in the city.
Curtis Park encompasses three designated historic districts, Clements, Glenarm Place, and San Rafael, and an eclectic mix of historic homes including grand Victorians, Queen Anne’s, Denver Squares, and Brownstone-style row houses.
Following a decades-long hiatus, “streetcars,” in the form of light rail trains, once again traverse the neighborhood, running out to 30th Street on Welton. New residences, including lofts, condos, and townhomes, seem to crop up daily along with shops and bistros such as Blackberries Coffee Lounge, a spacious and sleek looking coffee house located in a recently completed loft-style building across from the historic Rossonian Hotel.
Once a Mecca for jazz greats such as Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, and Duke Ellington, who would jam all night during stopovers on coast-to-coast tours, Curtis Park, now home to a diverse mix of blue collar workers and young professionals, is enjoying an exciting cultural renaissance.
Twenty-two galleries and studios along Curtis Park’s northwest edge have banded together as River North Art District (RiNo, pronounced “rhino”), a stimulating new creative center rooted in the railroad and mining industries that featured so prominently in the area’s history.
RiNo is anchored by the Forney Museum, the National Western Stock Show Complex, and the Denver Coliseum on the north and Coors Field on the south.
Each summer, the lively Juneteenth festival (Juneteenth stands for June 19th, the day that Union soldiers arriving in Texas announced the end of slavery) draws crowds from around the metro area to celebrate Black cultural heritage with great food, music, arts-and-crafts booths, and carnival rides. Special exhibits run concurrently at the Black American West Museum and throughout the year.