|After visiting the Detroit River region
in 1679, Father Hennepin wrote with prophetic appropriateness these
memorable lines: “Those who shall be so happy as to inhabit that
noble country cannot but remember with gratitude the men who have discovered
the way by venturing to sail upon an unknown lake for about one hundred
leagues.”(Ernest J. Lajeunesse. The Windsor Border Region, 1960)
Windsor is located on the toe of the boot that is Essex County,
which makes this city the most southern tip of Ontario and the
southernmost frontier of Canada. Detroit, Michigan is less than
a mile across the river. The river serves as an international
border between these two cities, and it’s the only thing
that divides them. Detroit is the largest American city directly
located opposite a Canadian city.
Windsor is connected to Detroit by the Michigan Central Railway
Tunnel (1910), the Ambassador Bridge (1929), and the Windsor – Detroit
Tunnel (1930). Also, Windsor is connected to Detroit both spiritually
and psychologically. Windsor’s people are close to
their cousins; they shop there, go to restaurants etc. Many people
from Detroit also come to Windsor for the same reasons. Windsor
people locate their town in relation to Detroit, so that others
will understand where they live.
Windsor is a typically automotive, industrial city. It is developed as a branch
plant economy of the United States and the automobile industries in Michigan.
Windsor’s relationship to Detroit and the proximity between the two cities
affect people's life in many ways. (Source: Herb Colling,
Turning Points. The Detroit Riot of 1967, A Canadian Perspective)
Italians, as many people from other European countries, immigrated
to Canada. They came by boat, and they were shipped by trains
to different provinces and cities. Why did they come to Windsor?
Many Italians were drawn to Windsor because they had heard from
relatives or friends about the expanding automotive and construction
industries in the Windsor-Detroit area. They came from various
parts of Ontario and Canada – Fort William, Timmins, White
River, Sudbury, Copper Cliff, Quebec, British Columbia, etc.
Many, of course, found jobs in factories or in construction,
but some began their own contracting businesses. (Courtesy of
Another reason for which the Italians were drawn to Windsor
was that they dreamed of America as the “Promised
Land”. Windsor, Detroit’s border city, was almost
America, a bridge to this place of dreams.
In reality, the immigrants were aware of the sufferings and hardship with which
they would pay for the construction of the new world. The streets were not
paved with gold.
Italians mostly belong to the Pier 21 and Ellis Island era
and the post war massive immigration. Italians came to North America
to build a better life for themselves and their families. Their struggles
and their achievements confirm that.
Many Italians came to the Windsor area with the intention
of working in Detroit. Mario Sellan recalls that his father,
first came to Canada in 1911, travelled
to a number of communities in Ontario, and eventually a friend
told him about the opportunities in Detroit. In 1919 he
came to Windsor for the purpose of going to Detroit but met
in Windsor and never got there.
the 20s many Italians, hearing from relatives or friends
about the expanding automotive and construction industries
in the Windsor-Detroit area, were drawn here from all over
the province. The small but dynamic collectivity consisted
of 429 people by 1921 and by 1931 had grown five times
to 2,023. But in the following decade it increased by only
430 people.(Walter Temelini, Italians in Windsor, Polyphony,
Vol. 7, No. 2).