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.
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