Remember When Jack Kerouac Spent Time in Colorado?
Jack Kerouac was an American novelist who wrote: “On the Road.” The famous book documented a series of Kerouac's trips across the country with his group of buddies. He wrote his friends into the plot as fictional characters, and portrayed himself as the narrator, named Sal Paradise. At the time it was published, the book was considered to be groundbreaking and also a bit controversial. The 1957 novel helped define a generation and continues to sell upwards of nearly 130,000 copies per year 65 years later.
While writing the book, Kerouac and his crew spent quite a bit of time in Colorado.
In 1947, Kerouac went to Central City to watch the Central City Opera perform. He wrote about his experience at the opera house and stopping by old saloons in town to drink beer.
The author used his experiences in the Centennial State as inspiration for several parts of the novel. In part 3 of the book, which takes place in the spring of 1949, Sal takes a bus from New York to Denver.
The author talked about watching a baseball game in Denver, as well as time spent on Larimer and Curtis Streets, all of which remain hotspots today. Another experience described the "lights of 27th and Welton," where the characters enjoyed the thriving jazz scene of the Five Points neighborhood, which also existed in real life at the time. Additionally, the author documented the group's nights at many different drinking establishments in the Mile High City during the 50s, including My Brother’s Bar at 2376 15th Street where a framed photo of Kerouac now hangs on the wall.
During his travels, Paradise also made his way to the Front Range when he hitchhiked to Longmont and slept on the grass outside of a gas station. The group of companions traipsed through Colorado at a time before interstate highways were even built.
Sal Paradise mentions another Colorado town by name in Part 4 of the book, when he says, "Now we pointed our rattle snout south and headed for Castle Rock, Colorado, as the sun turned red and the rock of the mountains to the west looked like a Brooklyn brewery in November dusks. Far up in the purple shades of the rock there was someone walking, walking, but we could not see; maybe that old man with white hair I has sensed years ago up in the peaks.”
Later in his career, Kerouac bought a house in Lakewood. A statue of the late novelist was placed in front of his former residence.
A present-day apartment complex at 3100 Huron Street in Denver honors the respected writer with the name Jack Kerouac Lofts. Another location that pays homage to Kerouac is Writer Square at 1512 Larimer Street in downtown Denver.