What Did Sammy Davis Jr. Think?


Politically incorrect: the blackamoors that once guarded the Elmwood's Dining Room

Louise Jones, proprietor of the always intriguing vintage resale store, Jones & Co, located in Olde Walkerville on Wyandotte near Chilver, has an unusual find in her shop: a pair of “blackamoors” that once stood at the entrance of the Elmwood Casino’s dining room.

I had never heard of these oddities so I did some Googling:
“Blackamoors are stylized depictions of black Africans used in sculpture, jewelry, armorial designs and decorative art and are typically depicted with a head covering, usually a turban, and covered in rich jewels and gold leaf. They are usually male.

Ring a Bell?

The early examples often have European racial features, apart from the color. They are typically enamelled, carved from ebony or painted black to contrast with the bright colors of the embellishments. In decorative sculpture the full body is depicted, either to hold trays as virtual servants or bronze sconces to hold candles or light fixtures. They may be incorporated into small stands or tables. They are often portrayed in pairs. Andrea Brustolon (1662–1732) was the most important sculptor of blackamoors.” Click here for more info.

I was too young to get into the Elmwood Hotel and Casino but it sounds like it a was lot of fun in its heyday. Elmwood was a fine example of an art deco-style hotel. With 103 rooms located on an 11-acre lot on Dougall Avenue south of Tecumseh Road, it opened in the early 1940s and enjoyed a great run for almost 30 years. Many top entertainers highlighted the nightly floor shows: Tom Jones, Tony Bennett, Liberace, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr, Jimmy Durante, Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, Wayne Newton and Englebert Humperdink.

The Elmwood fell on hard times when owner Al Siegel could no longer afford the stars the casino had supported throughout the years. He closed the doors in December 1974 after filing for bankruptcy and. It was sold to George Corchis for almost $3 million in November of 1979.

In 1983, Corchis gave Brentwood Recovery Home for recovering alcoholics the deed to the Elmwood with the provision it did not have to be paid for two years, which enabled Brentwood’s Board of Directors to secure $1.5 million to conduct repairs, which took a year. The building was in great disrepair. “The windows were smashed and all the electrical stripped. Entire walls were missing. It was a mess,” recalls founder Fr. Paul Charbonneau.

From November 1983 to July 17, 1984, many people worked, unpaid, remodeling before the opening of Brentwood, which continues to operate as a recovery home and support facility. It was renamed the “Frere Paul Charbonneau Centre” in 2010 in memory of Charbonneau who died in March that same year.

To read more about Brentwood and Father Charbonneau click here.

photos and story e. weeks, postcard University of Windsor archives

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About Elaine Weeks

How history was taught in my day: memorize lots of boring dates and facts, watch corny old black & white history films. There was one bright spot, however. Grade 9 history at Walkerville Collegiate with Miss Falls (Georgina) when she taught a section on local history and took us on a field trip to explore some of Windsor's built heritage. Due to a peculiar series of events, celebrating local history became part of my business. My company, (partner is Chris Edwards,) Walkerville Publishing Inc., launched "The Walkerville Times" in 1999, which in due course became "The Times Magazine". Our goal was to make history real. I am a writer, editor, blogger, photographer, mother, wife, sister, activist, traveller, gardener, knitter, masters track & field competitor (when I have time), glass is nearly full person.
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5 Responses to What Did Sammy Davis Jr. Think?

  1. My Mother in Law rescued two big mermaids from the Elmwood Casino when it was being converted into what is now Brentwood. Husband said From what he was told his mother found them barely hanging onto the wall around a bar somewhere in the old Elmwood. that’s all we know. If anyone has any information on these or how old they are we really would like to know. Thank you

  2. Jeanine says:

    My mother in law used to work there when she was in her teens, that’s where she met her husband. I love to see the pictures. Thanks Elaine for sharing!

  3. selainew says:

    Indeed, and they only had to change half the name!

  4. Kari says:

    Ironic that Brentwood was a casino before being an addiction centre!

  5. Louise Jones says:

    Nice post Elaine. If anyone remembers seeing the Blackamoor pair at the Elmwood I would love to hear from them. Also I would be interested in any pictures that were taken inside the Elmwood at that time. It’s a neat part of Windsor’s history.

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