There are few architectural reminders of East Colfax’s residential heyday. Most of what’s left of Capitol Hill’s once-bustling, turn-of-the-century streetcar thoroughfare is obscured by a hodgepodge of 7-Elevens, auto-supply stores, and liquor marts. Zoning encourages higher-density housing in this area, but single-family homes are almost unheard of. That is, except for the home of one Denver couple, who recently took a chance on the infamous street.

After a decade of LoDo loft-living, the couple (who preferred to remain anonymous) wanted more space downtown—without the downtown price tag. When they saw this dilapidated, down-on-its-luck former single-family home with commercial frontage, they fell in love. Built in the 1890s, the 5,100-square-foot, four-story brick and terra-cotta structure offered all the stuff of home-improvement dreams. The basement, which includes an intact vault (once storage for tenant Wayne Pepper Furs), was the clincher.

Rare is the renovation that exposes each layer of history, but architects Ted Schultz and Jeffrey Belsick did just that, weaving old and new: Brick walls, remnants of plaster, and floor joists were left unchanged and mixed with contemporary details like steel staircases and railings, concrete counters, and ceramic tile. To update the building, they sliced out sections of floors and removed walls so natural light could filter through large upper-floor windows.

Living in a house near hurtling traffic and late-night Ogden Theater crowds isn’t for everyone, the homeowners acknowledge. But here is where life is happening, they say—or will be happening.