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Top O'Hill Terrace, Arlington

#4 of 42 in Things to do in Arlington
Historic Site · Landmark
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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563 reviews
  • Tour guide gave an excellent historical lecture. I had no idea of this kind of history in Arlington.  more »
  • My step-mom and I visited and were the only participants so I enjoyed the more personal setting. I loved the pictures and recorded interviews, though the transition from one topic to the next needs a....  more »
  • If you are visiting Arlington, this is a very interesting tour about prohibition and gambling with a slide show and a walk around the grounds.We were lucky enough to get in for our tour on our last day in Arlington. Vicki was very informative and has done a lot of research to be sure all her information is accurate.It was very cool that everything was tied together with visitors coming in sharing stories and keeping history alive. This is an important piece of history that Arlington needs to be sure continues! Thank you Vicki for your hard work and dedication to Arlington history.
  • Very enjoyable tour! Mrs. Vickie Bryant was very knowledgeable and informed about the history of this place!! Awesome to see how far this land has come and be able to see some of the tunnels

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