LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Some call it the “longest, wickedest street in America,” and for years a Denver resident has been chronicling every part of Colfax Avenue’s history. But soon, Jonny Barber will call it quits and close the Colfax Museum in Lakewood. In an interview with CBS4, Barber said it’s too expensive to keep operating the museum. He plans to sell most the historic signs and memorabilia he’s collected over the years and sell the domain name associated with his endeavors.
Barber said he started exploring the possibility of closing after the museum, located inside Pasternack’s Art Hub off West Colfax Avenue, flooded in July. Before deciding to close, Barber was looking for another location.
“Practicality reared its ugly head,” Barber said. “I think I probably underestimated the task of building something like this or having employees and a staff.”
Barber has been collecting items and chronicling Colfax’s history for about 15 years. The obsession started while playing music gigs at venues along the street, but soon grew.
“I would see businesses starting to close their doors, and (said) ‘Hey, what are you planning on doing with that awning? What are you doing with that sign,’” he said.
Soon he had a dedicated space on East Colfax Avenue but the building’s owner eventually sold it. Following that, Barber found the museum’s current location in Lakewood.
“The actual, physical brick-and-mortar space evoked a lot of strong memories in people,” Barber said. “They would come in and it would kind of jar things they maybe hadn’t thought about in years.”
For all 15 years, Barber’s efforts to preserve collectibles and signs from Colfax were self-funded. Now, to recoup all he’s lost, he is selling much of his personal collection along with the museum’s domain name — colfaxmuseum.org. The bidding is up to $1,500, Barber said.
“The bid started at $3. How Colfax is that?” he joked.
Over the years, countless collectibles have been donated to Barber and his museum. Those will now be donated again, rather than be sold.
“I want to make sure it finds a new home and people can still enjoy it,” Barber said.
Though his work is over, Barber has no doubt the crazy street he’s dedicated more than a decade to will be OK.
“It is going to go on without me,” he said.
Barber will continue to explore his passion and obsession in other ways. He tells CBS4 he is working on a book about Colfax’s history and will consult businesses on the street. He has also photographed things on the street extensively over the years, and hopes to create an online database about the street and its history.