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Top O'Hill Terrace, Arlington

4.7
#4 of 48 in Things to do in Arlington
Historic Site · Landmark
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Beulah Adams Marshall bought land here along the Bankhead Highway in the early 1920s and opened a tea room, hosting teas and serving dinners to Dallas and Fort Worth Patrons. In 1926, Fred and Mary Browning purchased the property and shortly began converting the facilities into a casino, adding an escape tunnel and secret room for hiding the gambling paraphernalia during raids. Known as Top O’ Hill Terrace, the popular spot attracted gamblers as well as visitors who were often unaware of the gaming activities. The restaurant, along with the tea garden that exists today, was a legitimate business, operating alongside the casino, which benefited from the nearby Arlington Downs Racetrack. Top O’ Hill Terrace facilities included a horse barn and a private stable for Browning’s prized horse, Royal Ford, purchased from oilman and Arlington Downs owner W. T. Waggoner.

Contemporary to the Top O’ Hill heyday was the outspoken Dr. J. Frank Norris (d. 1952), longtime pastor of First Baptist Church of Fort Worth. The conservative Norris, co-founder of Fundamental Baptist Bible Institute, later known as Bible Baptist Seminary and later as the Arlington Baptist College, was an ardent proponent of prohibition and gambling reform. One of his targets was Top O’ Hill Terrace, which he reportedly vowed one day to own. In 1947, Texas Ranger Captain M. T. “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas led a raid on Top O’ Hill, catching the gambling operation in full swing. In late 1956, under the leadership of Earl K. Oldham, the Bible Baptist Seminary bought the property and relocated here, fulfilling Norris’ promise, although neither he nor Browning (d. 1953) had lived to see it. Today, the Arlington Baptist College continues to use the site, which retains many of its original structures and features a statue of Norris by noted Sculptor Pompeo Coppini.
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Top O'Hill Terrace reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 5.0
634 reviews
Google
4.6
TripAdvisor
  • It was a fascinating presentation and tour making the history of that area come alive. The presentation was very interesting and well researched. It was time well spent. 
    It was a fascinating presentation and tour making the history of that area come alive. The presentation was very interesting and well researched. It was time well spent.  more »
  • First the presentation of the early history of the place , then the tour to show some of the very secret places that many are still unknow 
    First the presentation of the early history of the place , then the tour to show some of the very secret places that many are still unknow  more »
Google
  • Fabulous tour very informative and personal took time to explain in great detail - professor Vicki Bryant was excellent great value for money would recommend a visit xxx
  • Sunday we went on a tour for Top O' Hill Terrace at Arlington Baptist College. Vickie Bryant lead the tour and was fantastic. She was so passionate and has uncovered so much information about VEGAS BEFORE VEGAS right in Arlington, Texas….who knew! We were introduced to so much history and learned of the hidden tunnels that had been used at that time. Definitely would recommend the tour and we’re interested in going back. Thank you Vickie.

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