Colfax Avenue and Some of the Worst Motels in Denver.

I’ve been putting some good miles on The 55, seeing some cool sights along the way and spending some quality time with my family – Pop, Scott, Val, Alex, Avery and Andrew.
I grew up in Colorado but in all my years here I’ve never driven all the way down Colfax Avenue.
In my previous post I wrote: “it’s become legend that Playboy magazine once called Colfax “the longest, wickedest street in America.”” 
Colfax is Denver’s “Main Street” – it runs east-west from Golden to Aurora.
I exited I-70 and started at the west end of Colfax and almost immediately I was greeted by the A&D Motel.

I love the neon cactus, but it looks like the neon cactus is the only thing the A&D Motel has going for it.
I read on the internet that the A&D Motel is “the worst motel in Lakewood.”
Now that’s a bold statement.
Right down the street is Davies Chuck Wagon Diner.

Davie’s is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
It was installed in 1957 along with the sign and it’s an original, vintage Mountain View Diner.
The neon cowboy kinda reminds me of Vegas Vick on Fremont Street in Vegas.
On my way to Davie’s I passed this little gem and had to do a little back-tracking to get it.
The Scatterday’s Lumber Yard sign.

Scatterday’s was established in 1945.
It’s no longer a lumber yard, but that cool sign is.
While I was out taking these pictures I discovered that Denver has some of the friendliest people around.
Like this woman at the Lakewood Grill.

I got out of The 55 and as soon as I started taking pictures she walked up and just stood there.
Then she started talking to me.
I’m still not sure what she was talking about, but I think she mentioned something about being in Bronco’s Country.

When you’re in Colorado – Denver especially – you’re in Bronco’s Country.
So be aware.
I had no idea Colfax was jam packed with all of this gold.
Like the White Swan Motel. 

The White Swan Motel was another motel that someone said is the “worst motel in Denver.”
I was so distracted by the White Swan Motel I completely missed Casa Bonita just across the street. 
Casa Bonita is a Denver institution and I’m sorry I missed it. 
A block away is The Big Bunny Motel.

It was built in 1952 and was known as the Bugs Bunny Motel until they got a letter from the Warner Brothers legal team telling them to change the name.
Maybe they were told to change the name because of a review that read “this is absolutely the worst motel in Denver.” 
Right down the street is the Lakewood Lodge.

The sign is awesome!
All that’s missing is the neon. 
And – the Lakewood Lodge isn’t one of the worst motels in Denver.
But why is it that every place I want to stop seems to be on the other side of the street?
Story of my life…
I saw the purple of the Aristocrat Motor Hotel and had to turn in.
And I got a two for one.
I got the Aristocrat Motor Hotel and the Eddie Bohn Motel in the background.

The Aristocrat was built in 1964 and it looks like it’s been converted into apartments or low income housing.
I’m glad they kept the sign.
All that’s left of the Eddie Bohn Motel is the sign.
It’s now a dispensary. 
Hey – it’s Colorado – what do you expect?
Finally – something on “my” side of the street.
Frank’s Bar-B-Que.

It doesn’t say it on the sign, but it’s Texas style BBQ.
Texas & Kansas are my favorite BBQ’s.
They didn’t have any burnt ends, so I got the chicken.
And if you’re in need of a whole smoked pig, they’ll smoke one up for you.
After all that BBQ I needed to relax a bit, and it just so happened that Lake Steam Baths & Sauna was right down the street. 

It sounds kinda creepy, but it’s been there since 1927 and is a legitimate Russian bath house. 
Pete’s Satire Lounge has been a Denver tradition since 1962.

At least that what it says on their website.
The sign ain’t so bad either.
It’s 21 feet tall and was built in 1956 for Sugie’s Lounge. 
The letters were changed in 1962 when Pete took over and he’s been at it ever since.
Not even a block away is the Lion’s Lair.

It started life as the Playboy Club in the 1930’s – not the Playboy magazine Playboy Club – those didn’t open until 1960.
Until 1967 it was the Aladdin Lounge, then it was bought and rechristened the Lion’s Lair after the owner Jim Lyons.
I love midcentury architecture, so I made a little detour off of Colfax to check out the Parkway Towers.
It is a true midcentury modern masterpiece. 
It was built in 1962 and it looks like not much has changed since.
Back on Colfax, my last stop was the Top Star Motel.

The Top Star Motel was built in 1957 and my guess is the star on top used to rotate.
People in Denver are not camera shy.
This guy just popped out of the bushes and started asking me questions about The 55.
It’s not a Nomad. 
Directly across the street from the Top Star Motel is a former Phillip’s 66 gas station.

I know this because it’s the same design as this one in West Covina, CA.

How cool is that?
A few states apart but it’s still got the same architecture.
We drove from the western end of Colfax Avenue to almost the eastern end of it. 
I’m amazed at how many bad hotels there are on Colfax. 
But as bad as they may be to stay at, their signs are fantastic.
I don’t know if was ever called the “longest, wickedest street in America” by Playboy magazine, but I do know that Colfax Avenue is awesome. 
If you’ve got the time, take a cruise down Colfax and experience it for yourself.
Don’t forget to bring your camera.

11 thoughts on “Colfax Avenue and Some of the Worst Motels in Denver.

  1. I was treated wonderful out on Colfax at one of these ” bad ” motels. I flew out to Denver to see the Recreational Marijuana Stores when they first opened just to say I did. I’ve been on several dreadlock holidays to Negril and Oche Rios and to LA and Germany and Paraguay and San Diego and Las Vegas and on and on. I got corrected for being a bit too loud in Oche Rios but good old US money got the nightman to go and tell the guy that complained about us in the hot tub that we paid to do it. So the third day after staying two days out on Colfax at a ” bad ” motel I stayed on the bus to the last stop downtown by the mint. I went to a Motel Six downtown and they refused to rent me a room. I had one bag and had on an Army jacket and he told me I looked homeless. So I sat at the bus stop and a real homeless person came up with a quilt and suggested to me that we hunker down under that quilt so we didn’t freeze. I was out moving the next day and a guy in a chocolate shop I went to said they had a problem about that. He had a friend that ran one of the motels out by the airport and he took me to it in his car after he got off work and told his friend what had happened and I got a hot shower that night and stayed there til I left flying back to Nashville. The moral of the story is get a room at the airport right off the plane or stay on Colfax at a ” bad ” motel that actually was fine. I looked Colfax Ave. up on the computer when I got back home and that’s when I discovered the Playboy article. It’s on here if you look for it. They explained the story of Colfax being a ritzy sort of place at the turn of last century with all manner of Victorian style homes, two stories and nice stuff too. They said that later Route 66 was routed along Colfax for a while and later still when Kennedy was President they released all the mental patients and closed down the mental hospitals and all those nice old houses were broken up into multiple apartment buildings and all the released patients around town ended up living there. That’s when the prostitution and all the drugs and booze got in it and that rendered it what it is now. If it follows the normal pattern it will probably end up gentrified and ungodly expensive like Hell’s Kitchen in New York or Broadway St. in Nashville. I watched it go from nearly boarded up in 1984 to absolutely gentrified by now. I liked it when it was ” bad ” much better myself. Fun for all back then and now you best have a pocketful of money and a lot of patients driving to get around down there. I like Colfax really well and would tell anyone to just use normal city rules hanging out up there. License in your shoe. Don’t flash cash and watch out for the hookers cause I’m sure they would steal and you a stranger. If your 55 isn’t a Nomad what is it? I notice it has windows in the back so it’s not a sedan delivery either. Bel Aire or a Biscayne I’m guessing. I really enjoyed your pics. Thanks for sharing !!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the cool story Frankie buddy!! It’s nice when someone restores your faith in humanity. I can imagine Colfax was a little bit like Fremont Street in Las Vegas back in the day right?!? Colfax was never a part of Route 66 – it’s too far north. Route 66 started in Chicago and went south west thru Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.
      The 55 is a 210 “Handyman” station wagon. They had the 150, the 210 and the Bel Air – Nomads are Bel Airs and everyone thinks if it’s a 2-door wagon – it’s a Nomad. It’s not. The easiest way to tell ’em apart is:
      1 – the slanted “B” pillar – non-Nomads have a straight up and down “B” pillar
      2 – nine ribs on the roof of a Nomad – non-Nomads have a smooth roof
      3 – seven chrome strips on the tailgate and a “knuckle-buster” handle – non-Nomads didn’t come with chrome strips on the tailgate
      I hope that helps out a little bit – I used to think all 2-door wagons were Nomads too.
      Let me know if you have any more questions


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  3. I like to visit the parts of town that time forgot. (Besides common sense, I have a variety of weapons that I carry.)

    I stay at cheap motels. The absolute worst one I ever stayed at was in Indiana. I was bored, and about once an hour, I walked around the place. The people weren’t friendly. In fact, they appeared to be afraid of me.

    Yet when I would say hi, they would say hi back.

    (Other than the huge factual error, I really liked Frankie’s history of Colfax Street.

    Liked by 1 person

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