How Colfax Avenue Got Its Name And Its Gritty Reputation

Listen Now
Photo: Colfax Avenue compilation CD cover

Stretching across Aurora, Denver, Lakewood and Golden, Colfax Avenue has a rather storied past. The longest commercial street in the United States was named after Indiana congressman Schuyler Colfax, who served as the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and as the vice president to Ulysses S. Grant.

Early on, it was desirable to have a Colfax Avenue address, as it was lined with many affluent residences. But the thoroughfare has gone through a number of transformations and, because of the prominence of drugs and prostitution in the late 20th Century, earned a much grittier reputation -- Playboy Magazine once deemed it the "longest, wickedest street in America."

Jonny Barber of Denver has been fascinated with the history of Colfax Avenue for more than a decade. He and his wife founded, a website for all things Colfax, in 2004. Barber spoke with Colorado Matters host Andrea Dukakis.