Colfax is a city in Placer County, California, at the crossroads of Interstate 80 and State Route 174. It is part of the Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 1,496 at the 2000 census. The town is named in honor of Vice President Schuyler Colfax (1869-73) a bronze statue of whom stands on Main Street near the railroad station.Some of the town's notable features include the newly restored train depot (which houses a number of shops), the downtown shops on Main Street, and Colfax High School, which serves a large surrounding area.
Originally inhabited by the Maidu Indians, by the mid 1800s the city site was known as Alder Grove; however, as development increased the city became known as Illinoistown. Later it was renamed Colfax after then Speaker of the House (and later Vice President) Schuyler Colfax who visited the town in 1865 while inspecting progress of construction of the Central Pacific Railroad, the western portion of the first transcontinental railroad. The city was the southern terminus of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad from 1876 until the railroad’s removal in 1942. Historic U.S. Route 40 also runs through the city as well as the more modern Interstate 80. The city is mentioned in Jules Verne’s book Around the World in Eighty Days.
Colfax is located at(39.097260, -120.954017). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.3 square miles (3.4 km²), all of it land.
The principal geologic structures present are granitic and metamorphic rock formations. Located approximately one mile west of Colfax is a branch of the Melones Fault, running in north to south direction.The fault runs through the old grammar school baseball field so they closed the school. (Earth Metrics, 1989) Another branch of the same fault is located about 1.2 miles to the east also aligned in a north south orientation. No movement has been recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey, and the faults are considered inactive. Bunch Creek is an active water source flowing south to eventually confluence with the North Fork of the American River.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,496 people, 614 households, and 394 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,141.0 people per square mile (440.9/km²). There were 636 housing units at an average density of 485.1/sq mi (187.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 93.18% White, 0.60% Black or African American, 0.60% Native American, 0.13% Asian, 2.34% from other races, and 3.14% from two or more races. 8.29% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 614 households out of which 35.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.0% were married couples living together, 15.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.7% were non-families. 28.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 2.97.
In the city the population was spread out with 28.5% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 28.4% from 25 to 44, 21.0% from 45 to 64, and 13.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 93.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,391, and the median income for a family was $43,125. Males had a median income of $37,500 versus $27,708 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,440. About 8.5% of families and 12.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.1% of those under age 18 and 7.1% of those over 64.
Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Colfax. The city's passenger rail station is located at 99 Railroad Street in the heart of town. Amtrak Train 5, the westbound California Zephyr, is scheduled to depart Colfax at 12:26pm daily with service to Roseville, Sacramento, Davis, Martinez, and Emeryville across the bay from San Francisco. Amtrak Train 6, the eastbound California Zephyr, is scheduled to depart Colfax at 12:26pm daily with service to Truckee, Reno, Sparks, Winnemucca, Elko, Salt Lake City, Provo, Helper, Green River, Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs, Denver, Omaha, Galesburg, and Chicago.
Gold Country Stage, a local bus system, provides service throughout Nevada County including Grass Valley and Nevada City and connects to Colfax three times daily.
A notable attraction of Colfax used to be the popular restaurant Dingus McGee's, run by Dennis Freidig and Robert "Ol' Bob" Townsend. Dingus McGee's was a classic roadhouse tavern that nestled into the wooded hillside adjacent to Interstate 80; the tavern offered a variety of bar food from chicken wings to calamari, more exotic food like alligator nuggets and served up hefty steak, seafood and pasta entrees.
In November 1990 an image of the Virgin Mary was reported to have miraculously appeared on a wall of St. Dominic's Catholic church. It was later discovered that the image was really a projection caused by the sun passing through a stained glass window. Nevertheless, the Colfax Record (the local newspaper since 1908) reported up to 4000 people on a single Sunday went to view the shadow before it was pointed out to be similar to a Virgin Mary in one of the windows.
Colfax features a restored art deco single screen theater with a small display of historic movie equipment, as well as several bars and coffee shops. Current downtown Colfax was constructed in the 1860s. The Community Center, built during the depression as a school, is an example of streamline modern architecture.