• LOCATION 6 | Unholy Toledo Tour: Gambling and Gangsters in the Glass City

    Who Was Jimmy Hayes? | St. Clair and Madison

    Who Was Jimmy Hayes? | St. Clair and Madison on Toledo, Ohio audio tour Unholy Toledo Tour: Gambling and Gangsters in the Glass City

    Let's pull over to the right -- just before Madison.

    Gerald James "Jimmy" Hayes came to Toledo from the Irish ghettos of Cleveland as a teenager in the early 1900's. He learned about the Toledo gambling scene while serving as a hansom cab driver, chauffeuring Toledo's elite high rollers from one hot spot to another. His cab stand was located here at Madison and St. Clair, just across from the Boody House Hotel (that's b-o-o-D-y, not T-y). The Boody House was one of Toledo's poshest hotels. It was located where the PNC Bank building is today.

    Hayes was quite the businessman. At the dawn of the automobile age, he and his partners put their horses out to pasture and pooled their money to buy a custom limousine and established Toledo's first motorized taxi service.

    Hayes quickly learned the ins and outs of the gaming business. He took a gamble himself when he sold his share in the limo service and opened his first club. The likable Hayes was so well known to the gambling community in Toledo, he had no trouble establishing himself and word quickly spread about the honest games he ran in his clubs. In 1924, he opened The Villa just across the Michigan-Ohio state line on Dixie Highway. As Hayes gained in stature, he branched out and opened the highly successful Ramona Casino in Harbor Springs, Michigan, the Hollywood Club south of Miami and a few nightspots in Cleveland. More on the Cleveland clubs later. Throughout his rise to becoming a Toledo gambling kingpin, Hayes liked to brag that he didn't pay for any preferential treatment from the law. As he saw it, he earned respect through his straight-forward dealings with police and politicians. He did favors and they paid dividends.

    Our point in stopping here is to reinforce how important Jimmy Hayes is to the Unholy Toledo story. As Ken Dickson wrote in his book, Something for Nothing: "From cabby to gambler, Hayes had established himself as a major player in the gambling operations of the greater Toledo area."​

    Dickson goes on to quote from a profile of Hayes from The Blade:

    "Jimmy Hayes became a name in Toledo, in Cleveland, then in Detroit, he was a regular guy. ...He's on the square, the boys remarked about him. They heard of his private charities and heard that he booted youths out of his gambling establishments. Jimmy encouraged 'punks' to get an education. ...Hayes was reputed to be in control of slot machines here as well as all other forms of gambling with other figures in the racket being in his employ. He was reputed to be the big boss in gambling in all of its forms here."

    ​As you look ahead on your left you'll see Levis Square, one of Hayes joints was located in this area. It was the Gentleman's Club; 220 North St. Clair Street and it was well known as a place where craps, roulette, faro, blackjack, poker, or other profitable games of chance were available. It opened in the 1920's and closed in 1934.

    Okay, pull ahead and turn right on Jefferson and pull over to the right in front of 513 Jefferson on your left, the home of Downtown Johnny's. You can’t miss the place, it has a red facade.

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Unholy Toledo Tour: Gambling and Gangsters in the Glass City