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

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 series of peculiar events, celebrating local history became part of my business. My company, Walkerville Publishing Inc., (partner is Chris Edwards) launched "The Walkerville Times" in 1999 and we produced 61 issues - the last in 2016. In 2004, we began producing local history books; that year we released "Best of The Times Magazine". Our current titles include 5000 Ways You Know You're From Detroit, 500 Ways You Know You're From Windsor, Walkerville - Whisky Town Extraordinaire, and Windsor Then - A Pictorial Essay of Windsor's Glorious Past. I also wrote a novel, Time Trespasser, that blends time travel with local history. I am working on a sequel. I am a writer, editor, blogger, photographer, mother, wife, sister, activist, traveller, gardener, knitter, glass is nearly full person.
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13 Responses to What Did Sammy Davis Jr. Think?

  1. zoepona says:

    My grandfather (Papou), John Liolios, was a maintenance man at Elmwood in the 60s to early 70s. Although I’m doubtful as to how much he maintained, he was a funny, charismatic character that loved the environment at the hotel. He’d parade through the kitchen singing, “I can tell by the smell, that you’re doing very well,” in his thick Greek accent.
    He came home with all sorts of stories about the celebrities he meet. His absolute favourite was the always polite and kind Sammy Davis Jr.! My Papou addressed him as the ‘Candy Man,’ so Sammy gave him a jar of candies.
    Liza Minnelli on the other hand scolded my recently immigrated, so heavily accented Papou for mispronouncing her name as ‘Leeza.’ He’d get a scowl on his face and say, ‘I not like her,’ whenever she appeared on the TV.
    I’d love to her other stories.
    Does anyone happen to remember John Liolios or any of his other antics?

  2. Fine article. Around 1970 I saw Ella Fitzgerald and also Ray Charles at the Elmwood at an affordable price. I’d come from the San Francisco Bay area to Windsor to teach at the University in 1969. I couldn’t believe my good luck to see them in person.

  3. looking for mary diane manser who used to work at the elmwood inn1962 I would appreciate any info

  4. https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fpermalink.php%3Fstory_fbid%3D1566222983670149%26id%3D100008473877402&width=500

    Does anyone know Mary Diane Manser? He last known address was The Elmwood Annex in Windsor we are unaware, however we know that it was sometime between 1962 to when it closed.

  5. 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

  6. 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!

  7. selainew says:

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

  8. Kari says:

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

  9. 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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