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Top O'Hill Terrace, Arlington

4.6
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
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 5.0
420 reviews
Google
4.3
TripAdvisor
  • This is a very interesting place to visit and learn what happened here and all of the famous people involved.  more »
  • This place is a hidden jewel that I only recently learned about even though it has been there a very long time. It was so much fun and very informative. If you love local history, you will love it, es...  more »
Google
  • The tour consisted of watching an hour long presentation and about a 15 minute "tour". I would've learned more by watching a documentary on the PBS channel. Along with not being very engaging, the presentation was very much the Baptist Church patting them selves on the back for buying and ending the casino, and encouraging people to pat them on the back to. The actual tour consisted of going down a hall way on the side of the hill, which was about 20ft before you have to turn back around and go back out. After that was the courtyard with a fountain, and a hokey magnetic trick by the tour guide, where when walking over certain spots the magnets would move around. Even if it is actually magnetic and not the tour guide moving their wrists, it wasn't that impressive. I very much believe the tour guide is blinded by their own excitement. After these 3 quick spots, they proceed to talk about other tunnels and things, but don't even bother to show them, in fear of harmful gasses. I really think that there is more to this place and that it has potential, but for Pete's sake! Be more engaging! Don't just brag about yourselves the entire time! I'm not here to be indoctrinated into the Baptist Church! You have potential to be more engaging and more exciting but you're very much limited by your own inability to humble yourselves!
  • We enjoyed our visit to the Top ‘O Hill Terrace.

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