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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
  • Vickie Bryant did a wonderful job of relaying all the infamous happenings and persons involved in the Arlington gambling and illegal liquor era. Amazing story. Must see! A movie entitled Robin... 
    Vickie Bryant did a wonderful job of relaying all the infamous happenings and persons involved in the Arlington gambling and illegal liquor era. Amazing story. Must see! A movie entitled Robin...  more »
  • I’ve driven by this location many times but had no idea of the history behind or maybe below this beautiful campus. Well worth the time! 
    I’ve driven by this location many times but had no idea of the history behind or maybe below this beautiful campus. Well worth the time!  more »
Google
  • I had no idea about the history of Top O' Hill Terrace until my sister arranged for us to go on a tour. I was completely unaware that this place was VEGAS BEFORE VEGAS and now it's Arlington Baptist College. If you LOVE or just LIKE History, you'll enjoy Top O' Hill Terrace. This location in the 1930s and 40s was a gambling playground for the rich, famous and infamous. We're talking about some of the big names of that time like Bonnie and Clyde, Mae West, W.C.Fields, Gene Autry, Frank Sinatra,, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Jack Dempsey, Max Baer and the man responsible for Las Vegas, Bugsy Siegel just to name a few. Before it was a casino, it was a tea room but in the 1920s Fred and Mary Browning bought the property and converted it to a gambling mecca. The Browns added an escape tunnel and secret rooms for hiding the gambling equipment during police raids. The tunnel and secret rooms still exist and can be seen during the tour. It's all just fascinating stuff. Tour guide, Mrs. Vickie Bryant, is absolutely WONDERFUL. This tour is a WINNER in my book. 👍 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Little known history around Arlington that is amazing and shocking. Vicky is a great historian about Top of the Hill. Make an appointment and go hear amazing stories and tour "Top of the Hill" soon. This is free but a $10 donation is suggested.

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