Original Aurora


Spanning over 140 square miles and home to over 350,000 people, Aurora is the 3rd largest city in Colorado today.

The area between I-225 and Yosemite St and 6th Ave to 26th Ave., now referred to as “Original Aurora,” got its' start as a booming downtown, transformed slowly to a struggling crime-ridden corridor when the tourist traffic was diverted from the area to I-70, and today is making a comeback as a culture-rich neighborhood.

"Original Aurora" was not originally named Aurora, but actually originated as the town site of Fletcher, along East Colfax Avenue, east of Denver on the plains.

Donald Fletcher
Donald Fletcher was a real estate tycoon in Colorado in the late 19th century. He was born in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada, in 1849. His family moved to Chicago, Illinois, when he was a child. He later attended New York University, Knox College and Union Seminary. In 1879, at the age of 30, he moved to Colorado for health reasons. He founded a town on the plains east of Denver in 1891 and named it after himself.

The four-square mile town of Fletcher was home to 39 citizens and 14 brick homes designed with indoor plumbing. Two years later, Fletcher deserted the town and left the residents with bond payments for non-existent water. Without a stable source of water, the town of Fletcher nearly met its demise and petitioned for annexation by Denver. However, the town endured and was renamed Aurora (Latin for "of the dawn") in 1907, removing the reference to its infamous founder.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Colfax Avenue brought Original Aurora into being. Aurora’s town founders deliberately placed the suburb on the Colfax streetcar line, which provided a life sustaining connection to Denver. After 1920, when the streetcars gave way to automobiles, Colfax evolved into a four-lane commercial strip that carried America’s main coast-to-coast highway, U.S. 40, through Aurora, Denver, and Lakewood. The traffic helped spur tremendous post-war growth. Aurora’s population boomed from 3,000 in 1940, to nearly 50,000 by 1960, while Colfax’s cluster of motels, department stores, restaurants, and shops became the heart of downtown Aurora.

East Colfax Avenue and Dayton Street, 1921
Fitzsimons Army Hospital

Construction began taking off in the area and in 1918 Army Hospital 21 was built in Aurora. The US Army needed more hospitals to treat the large number of patients suffering from chemical weapon in World War I and Denver had built up a reputation for healing environment, particularly effective for treating tuberculosis.

Fitzsimons Red Cross Building, 1920.
The hospital was renamed the Fitzsimons Army Hospital in in 1920. A 1941 expansion made the hospital the largest structure in Colorado.

The facility continued to be heavily used through WWII in both treating injured soldiers and as a training center. Dwight Eisenhower also received treatment at the Fitzsimons Army Hospital several times throughout his presidency.

The hospital closed in 1995 and has since been redeveloped into the UC Denver Anschutz Medical Campus and Children’s Hospital.

When automobiles replaced streetcars in the 1920s, Colfax remained the center of commerce and growth. Aurora officially became a city in 1928.

Original Aurora in the 1950's
Between 1940 and 1960 Aurora’s population exploded from 3,000 to nearly 50,000. And the heart of the expanding city remained at the site of the original town. A cluster of motels, department stores, restaurants and shops lined Colfax. U.S. 40 was now American’s main coast-to-coast highway.

Original Aurora in the 1960's
Not for long. The Denver segment of Interstate 70 opened in 1958, supplanting U.S. 40 as the area’s major east-west highway and diverting cross country motorists away from Colfax. Local traffic also migrated elsewhere, to newer neighborhoods and commercial districts served by faster roads and better parking. Even Aurora’s municipal offices relocated to an off-Colfax address.Soon Aurora’s Colfax Strip became another Colorado boom-bust tale. By the early 1970’s, it had fallen on hard times, not quite Skid Row but no longer a thriving downtown hub. Plagued by high crime and low incomes, Aurora’s old downtown seemed immune to all efforts at rehabilitation.

Although East Colfax and Original Aurora are divided by municipal, county, and school district boundaries, many of their needs are similar. These two adjacent communities are situated near the redeveloped areas of Lowry, Stapleton and Fitzsimmons. Despite the bordering redevelopments, East Colfax and Original Aurora have been distressed neighborhoods with a very diverse and increasing immigrant population.

There is growing energy within the community and by organizations eager to strengthen the community and improve opportunities for families and outcomes for children. The Denver Foundation has been working in this area along with other organizations to foster the rich diversity and community connections, as evidenced by the opening of the Aurora Human Rights Center offering family support and workforce advocacy. The Original Aurora Renewal project is helping to revitalize the community, including arts programs, community gardens and the Florence Square project. Other strong community partners include the Aurora Cultural Arts District, Anschutz Medical Campus and the Community College of Aurora. Colfax developers and residents are actively creating a better future.

Starting in the late 1990’s, the district’s fortunes took an abrupt turn for the better. “Original Aurora” found itself the heart of a development triangle, surrounded by major housing and commercial projects and well placed to benefit from redevelopment at the former Lowry Air Force base, Stapleton Airport, and Fitzsimons Army Hospital. Bolstered by the development of the multimillion dollar Florence Square housing complex--Colfax’s first in many years—and banking on the creation of an arts and cultural complex anchored by the Aurora Fox Arts Center and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library.

Today a square in the heart of Original Aurora is named "Fletcher Plaza" and includes a sunken garden and tree-lined sitting area, one of the city's few urban public places. East Colfax has also become a hotbed for Mexican restaurants. La Cueva Restaurant is known for its laid-back atmosphere and authentic cuisine, as is La Morena. Other restaurants along the Colfax corridor between I-225 and Yosemite include Rico Pollo 2, Tacos Y Salsa, La Guatemalteca, Guadalajara Authentic Mexican Buffet, Tacos Jalpa, Tacos Junior, Restaurante Antojitos Hondurenos, Real de Minas Mexican Grill and Lupita's, as well as an authentic Mexican bakery called Rico Pan Bakery.

Along East Colfax you'll also find Afrikmall, an African cultural and business center that opened last summer. Retailers in the 56,281-square-foot building sell authentic cuisine and products.

There's also no shortage of parks in the neighborhood. They include: Spencer Garrett at East 16th Avenue and Joliet Street; City Park at Del Mar Parkway and East 17th Avenue; Montview Park at East 19th Avenue and Chester Street; Moorhead Memorial Park at East 25th Avenue and Havana Street; Lowry Park at East 11th Avenue and Dayton Street; and Hoffman Park, which sits at East 7th Avenue and Del Mar Circle (caddy-corner from Del Mar Park).

Original Aurora today - Photo by Jonny Barber




Total Population: 51,074
Child Population: 15,534
Racial/Ethnic Composition: 52% Hispanic, 23% white, 16% black
Students qualifying for free/reduced lunch: 83%
(*Data Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010; Denver Public Schools and
Aurora Public Schools, 2010)











ORIGINAL AURORA HISTORIC SITES
  
William Smith House
William Smith House
412 Oswego Ct.
Built: 1910
Landmarked: 1986
National Register of Historic Places
 
Historic William Smith School
Historic William Smith School
10000 E. 13th Ave.
Built: 1931
Landmarked: 1986
 
Aurora Fox
Aurora Fox Arts Center
 9900 E. Colfax Ave.
Built: 1946
Landmarked: 1987
 
Milliken House
H.M. Milliken House 
1638 Galena St.
Built: 1891
Landmarked: 1987
 
Italian Villa
Italian Villa
1785 Hanover St.
Built: 1925
Landmarked: 1988
 
Gilligan House
Thomas F. Gilligan House
1455 Beeler St.
Built: 1925
Landmarked: 1990
  
Centennial House
1671 Galena St.
Built: 1890
Landmarked: 1993
National Register of Historic Places
 
2027 Galena
Fuller House
2027 Galena St.
Built: 1892
Landmarked: 2001
 
Marshall Cowing House
Marshall Cowing House
1580 Dallas St.
Built: 1892
Landmarked: 2004
 
Hornbein Building
Hornbein Building
9901 E. 16th Ave.
Built: 1953
Landmarked: 2005
  
Robidoux House
Robidoux House
1615 Galena Street
Built: 1913
Landmarked: 2011
National Register of Historic Places
  
St. Therese School
St. Therese School
1200 Kenton St.
Built: 1956
Landmarked: 2007

Guardhouses at Fitzsimons General’s Park
Colfax Ave. & Peoria St.
Built: 1919
Landmarked: 1999

Original Aurora Walk Of Fame

Give these Aurorans a star on the sidewalk:

Zachery Tyler Bryan, born in Aurora, Colorado, played Tim Allen's eldest son Brad Taylor on the show Home Improvement.

Scott Carpenter (born 1925) - Pilot of Mercury-Atlas 7 (Aurora 7); 4th human to orbit the Earth (1962).

Gil Christner (born in Aurora) – Film and TV actor.

S Scott Connor - Has his own show in New Mexico. 

Brian Fisher (born in Denver, lives in Aurora) - Former Major League Baseball pitcher with New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates.

Tia Fuller, alto / soprano saxophonist / flautist

Cole Jordan Hernandez (born June 10, 1988 in Aurora) - American actor and dancer. Best known for his Michael Jackson like dance moves and his appearances on the television shows Rob Dyrdek's FantasyFactory (2009) and Ridiculousness (2011).

Neil Hopkins (lived in Aurora; attended Regis Jesuit High School) – Film and TV actor.

Jennifer "Jennie" Ketcham / Penny Flame - Former porn actress now blogger.

Brandon Quinn (born in Aurora) – Actor, starred as Tommy Dawkins in Big Wolf on Campus.

John Kerry, born in Aurora, Colorado is a very, very wealthy politician in the Democratic Party; thanks to his own workings and marrying a woman with the last name of Heinz. He attempted to become the President of the United States during the 2004 election, however George Bush reigned supreme once again as Kerry was dubbed a "flip-flopper" and much controversy was stirred up about his military service.

Sarah Schwabe of the KKTV 11 News Team.

Tyne Stecklein  After graduating from High School, Tyne relocated to L.A. to pursue a professional career in dance. In her first year there, she was selected as a dancer for the national "High School Musical Concert Tour" as well as for the South American tour. She was a dancer in the movies, High School Musical II, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with Brad Pitt, and Stepbrothers with Will Ferrell.

Paul G Tremblay (born in Aurora) - Horror Author.

Dana Wilson (born and raised in Aurora) - Studied many forms of dance at Michelle Latimer Dance Academy, and fell particularly hard for contemporary movement, hip hop, and funk styles. Since then, Dana has worked on countless commercials, music videos, award shows, television shows ("So You Think You Can Dance", "Dancing With The Stars", "American Idol", Americas Got Talent", MTV VMAs), and movies (Shrek 4, Charlie Wilson's War, and Camp Rock). Dana also assisted Marty Kudelka, and danced in numerous projects for Justin Timberlake including a world tour (the Future, Sex, Love Show), She worked as the assistant choreographer to two- time Emmy award winner Wade Robson on the Cirque Du Soleil show "Believe". More recently, Dana performed with Florence and the Machine, and Kylie Minogue, and she co-choreographed and danced for Joe Jonas' "Fast Life" tour. Dana is a very diversified dancer. She has lit the stage as a performer, become a passionate choreographer, traveled the world over as an instructor, but above all, she is an admirer and student of movement.

There are over 300 bands in Aurora on http://www.bandmix.com/colorado/aurora/all/

101st Army Band - Military marching band that trains in Aurora.

Know of a famous artist, musician, painter, writer, sculptor, actor, etc. from Aurora, Colorado? Write us at info(at)colfaxavenue.com.

Aurora Cultural Arts District, 2013

3 comments:

  1. Does anyone know where the Dump was in the 60s and 70s

    ReplyDelete
  2. It was on colfax between Buckley and Twer Rd

    ReplyDelete
  3. My family think I hallucinated this memory. I remember visiting an alligator farm on Colfax, just east of the CDOT property at Colfax and Tower Rd. It was only there for a year or two, but I have memory of it. Can someone offer me some details or photos of the place. Had to be in the early to mid 60's.

    ReplyDelete