1928 - Alderson High School - 1968

The Journal Of The
Greenbrier Historical Society
Alderson, West Virginia
Written by Kenneth D. Swope

Ada "Bricktop" Smith
August 14, 1894 February 1, 1984

A woman who probably has known more of the world's great over a longer period of time than anyone now living is Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louisa Smith, better known as "Bricktop" Smith.  She was born in Alderson and spent here childhood here.  Her step-father operated a barber shop located between the present Methodist Church and the old Alderson National Bank building, and the Smith family lived there. "Barber" Smith whose first name is not known was a well-liked hunch-backed Negro.  His wife, Hattie, an expert seamstress, will be remembered by the older generation as she constantly went about in her old age with a poodle dog, and was a woman of unusual appearance. According to local information, when Barber Smith died Mrs. Smith took little Ada to Chicago,  where Mrs. Smith opened a boarding house patronized by theatrical clientele. There Ada, or "Bricktop" as she was nicknamed, learned some entertainment lore.

Recently Robert C. Ruark, nationally known columnist and author, wrote a lengthy article a bout "Bricktop".  Ruark says red-headed freckle-faced "Bricktop" was the Queen of Paris in the roaring 20's, where in 1924 she opened a world famous club in which she sang many songs in fractured French, smoked big black cigars, and could drink all the brandy customers would buy her.  To her place came the world's great, the kings, the queens, the writers, composers, poets, the politicians, the rich, the big business men.  "Bricktop's" place was chic and the place to go.  Ruark said "Bricktop" told him she judge the success of a night by the number of kings in the house.  One night she had five kings and the Prince of Wales.

In 1951 she left Paris for Rome and there she became equally successful.  To here place near Hotel Excelsior came the resident Romans, the tourists, and the foreign colony.  Ada Smith has become a Catholic convert, and is devout.  She has been very active in charities for Italian orphans.  The last three Popes knew "Bricktop" and granted here semi-private audiences.

Ruark says that now "Bricktop's" liver is going back on here, and she is tired of staying up all night. She must be more that 75.  Besides, kings and queens are getting scarce, so "Bricktop" has closed up here Roman place.  She plans to return to the United States and open a small cocktail lounge in New Your probably, or San Francisco, and go to bed early.

Photo courtesy Dan Oppenheimer, The Jack Robinson Gallery and Archive.
More information and links on Ada "Bricktop" Smith at Wikipedia.

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The contents contained in this series is copyrighted and the sole property of The Greenbrier Historical Society - Lewisburg, WV
Used by permission - November 18, 2008