Each year for the last 13 years, the Denver Architectural Foundation has presented Doors Open Denver (DOD), a weekend of appreciation for urban design and architecture in the city. This year nearly 70 sites will have free entrance for the public, with more than 60 additional insider tours and six arts and culture activities. The full list of sites can be found on the DOD website, including everything from churches, the Governor’s mansion, theaters and masonic temples.

In the past, this annual celebration has focused solely on architecture, but in the last few years, arts and cultural activities have been added. DOD is all about enjoying and discussing architecture in the same way one would enjoy and discuss a fine piece of art, so the pairing is a no-brainer. This year, the art and cultural activities are all occurring in Five Points in order to showcase that neighborhood’s rich cultural history.

About that decision, Pauline Herrera Serianni, the executive director of the Denver Architecture Foundation said, “over the years, Five Points has been home to a diverse community with a passion for music, art and unique urban design. This year, the Denver Architecture Foundation partnered with RedLine to honor this neighborhood’s cultural legacy by activating a number of historic Five Points locations with jazz, dance, food and more, demonstrating the continued cultural richness of the area.”

Architecture is an art, although it is commonly overlooked as a means to an end. Especially with the rapid expansion of buildings in Denver that lack historical or architectural significance, it is imperative that we appreciate the buildings that have meaning. The five free arts and culture activities (and one that costs $5) this year provide a well-balanced menu to taste-test the legacy of Five Points — and we’ve outlined them below. 

Jazz at the Rossonian

Photo by Brittany Werges

When: September 22 – 23, 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.

Where: Rossonian, 2650 Welton St., Denver

The Lowdown: Just in April this year, the historic Rossonian announced its plans to re-open after decades of attempts that never came to fruition. The 106-year-old building not only holds great significance to Five Points, but it also carries weight in Denver’s history and is a registered historic landmark. For DOD this year, this gem of a building will host the majority of the art and cultural events, perhaps most appropriately four different jazz performances. On Saturday enjoy sounds from The Gayle Leali Jazz & Blues Quartet at noon and Lorraine Ellis and her Trio at 2 p.m. On Sunday imbibe in Spherio at noon and Joe Smith and The Spicy Pickles at 2 p.m. Since the Rossonian has hosted some of Jazz’s greatest artists — like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald — appreciating jazz within its walls is a must.

READ: The Black History of Cervantes’ and the Five Points Jazz Scene

Taste of Five Points

Rosenberg’s Bagels. Photo by Rachelle Foos

When: September 22 – 23, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Where: Historic Puritan Pie Factory (Rocky Mountain Land Library), 2612 Champa St., Denver

Cost: Free admission, $5 plates 

The Lowdown: Along with the legacy of Jazz, Five Points also holds a unique culinary history. This weekend, glimpses of that history will be showcased inside the old Puritan Pie Factory with neighborhood restaurants and bakeries offering $5 plates. The Puritan Pie Factory was originally built in 1911 with deeper cellars than other pie factories in order to accommodate ice and frozen cherries that helped them make pies all year. Decades later, the factory became associated with the suspicious activities of Beat Generation writer Neal Cassady and his older brother Jack, who ran an illegal alcohol still across the street from the factory and used the smell of cherries to mask his crimes. You can revel in that history and also taste dishes from Rosenberg’s Bagels, Whittier Café, Genna Rae’s Wings, The Humble Pie Store, The Rolling Pin Bakeshop, Purple Door Coffee, Curtis Park Delicatessan and Welton Street Café.

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance

Photo courtesy of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance on Facebook

When: September 22 – 23, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Where: Rossonian, 2650 Welton St., Denver

The Lowdown: Celebrate the neighborhood’s African American history by watching performances from one of Denver’s premier dance companies, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. Cleo Parker Robinson is a hugely influential person in Five Points and, more broadly, Colorado, who has not only choreographed a dance ensemble for over 40 years, but has received countless awards and recognition both locally and nationally. The performances will represent Five Points’ special cultural traditions and will take place at the Rossonian, allowing viewers to immerse themselves into the past. If you’ve never seen a dance show by the members of Cleo Parker Robinson’s ensemble, this is one not to miss.

Black Actors Guild Historical Reenactments

Photo by Nick Alumbaugh, courtesy of Black Actor’s Guild

When: September 22 – 23, 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Where: Rossonian, 2650 Welton St., Denver

The Lowdown: Founded in 2009, the Black Actor’s Guild represents Five Points with regular shows and events throughout Denver. This year for DOD, they’ve created a series of historic reenactments to showcase their neighborhood’s history. The cast is pretty well-known for their humor and ease on stage, so their reenactments should be one for the books. Think of it as a history lesson with a twist.

If These Walls Could Talk: Architecture Stories with Sam Pike

Photo courtesy of Sam Pike on Facebook

When: September 22, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Where: Blair Caldwell African American Research Library, 2401 Welton St., Denver

The Lowdown: Local filmmaker and storyteller Sam Pike wants to know your answers to questions like, “What’s your favorite building in Five Points? Which building holds within its walls an unforgettable story? Which building needs its story told before it is forgotten?” Visit his pop-up story booth at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library on Saturday and give him your personal insights so that he can give a voice to the personality of the neighborhood, rather than just the history. The library itself is, of course, historic though it was only built in the early 2000s. The historic nature of the library rests in what it holds within its doors — a trove of information about how African Americans helped shape Colorado and the West.

Points of Interest with Imin Yeh

This historic Rossonian hotel in Five Points. Photo by Kyle Cooper.

When: September 22 – 23, various times

Where: Various historic sites in Five Points

The Lowdown: Do you want a little more activity to your art and culture experience than watching performances? Then grab an official DOD map and visit the other five Five Points activations to complete a scavenger hunt created by artist Imin Yeh. At each stop, you’ll need to find the unique stamp and match it to the spot on the map in order to successfully complete the mission. The unique stamps have been created by Yeh and a handful of local Denver artists.

For a full list of DOD open sites, go here.

For a full list of DOD guided insider’s tours, go here

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