Original Entrance Gate of Top O' Hill Terrace

Photographers: Sara Harris and Mack Harris

Long before Las Vegas became one of the gambling centers in the United States, Arlington had one of the nation’s most celebrated casinos.  In the 1930s and ‘40s, the Top O’ Hill Terrace along the old Bankhead Highway attracted gamblers from all over the country, among them movie stars like Clark Gable and John Wayne.

According to a historical marker, Beulah Adams Marshall bought the land in the early 1920s and opened a tea room in a building with an expansive view.  But when Fred and Mary Browning bought the place in 1926, they added a basement, which they turned into a casino that stayed open late into the night.  The popular spot attracted gamblers as well as visitors who were often unaware of the gaming activities.  The location was perfect.  The hill is 1,000 feet high, the highest point in Tarrant County.  The restaurant was a legitimate business, operating alongside a brothel as well as the casino, which benefited from the nearby Arlington Downs Racetrack.

To prepare for police raids, the casino had escape tunnels dug by Chinese workers and a secret room for hiding the gambling equipment during raids.  It also had hidden passageways and trapdoors, two-way mirrors and false walls, all protected by gates and guards posted outside.

Finally, a successful raid shut down the casino in 1947.  Nine years later it was converted into a campus of the Bible Baptist Seminary, which later became Arlington Baptist College.  Today, the Arlington Baptist College continues to use the site, which retains many of its original structures.

The wrought-iron gates flanked by native sandstone guard towers still lend an aura of mystery and intrigue to the location at 3001 West Division Street.



Top O' Hill Terrace is in Arlington



Top O' Hill Terrace is on the campus of Arlington Baptist college.



Brief History of Arlington Downs Ractrack

Top O' Hill Terrace was lively because of the now-defunct Arlington Downs Racetrack
and there was no casinos in Las Vegas at that time.

Rich and famous people coming in from anywhere to have private parties in the hidden basement of
Top O' Hill Terrace at night after gambling at Arlington Downs Racetrack during daytime.



Arlington Downs Racetrack in red box and watering trough is on the green dot.





Arlington Downs Racetrack

Arlington has long been known as an entertainment center between "Cowtown" and "Big D." In 1933, people traveled from throughout the United States to place bets on the horses at W. T. Waggoner’s Arlington Downs Racetrack located on E. Division. Another popular place was the gambling casino at Top O’ Hill Terrace on W. Division. Today, Arlington continues to be one of the state’s premiere destinations for entertainment venues like:

      Six Flags Over Texas
      Hurricane Harbor
      Texas Rangers Ballpark
      Dallas Cowboys' New Stadium
      International Bowling Museum
      Top O' Hill Terrace

When visiting Six Flags Over Texas, look for its Historical Centennial Marker and other historical markers located at the Carousel, Cable Tool Rig and Narrow Gauge Railway (1), and the stone murals at Texas Rangers Ballpark (2), which depict historical Texas scenes. See the decorative watering trough (3) which is all that remains of Arlington Downs Racetrack, located just N.E. of the intersection of Six Flags Drive and Division.  Step back in time and enjoy your tour through Arlington’s history!

Wealthy rancher and oilman W. T. Waggoner (1852-1934) developed a stable of fine Thoroughbreds and quarter horses at his ranch here in the 1920s. At this site he built Arlington Downs, a one-and-one quarter mile race track with a 6,000-seat grandstand. Wealthy rancher and oilman W. T. Waggoner (1852-1934) developed a stable of fine Thoroughbreds and quarter horses at his ranch here in the 1920s. At this site he built Arlington Downs, a one-and-one quarter mile race track with a 6,000-seat grandstand. Racing days drew thousands of spectators including numerous celebrities. Waggoner and his sons Guy (1883-1950) and Paul (1889-1967) campaigned for pari-mutuel betting, which was legalized in Texas from 1934 to 1937. The Racetrack was used for rodeos and other events before the buildings were razed in 1958.Racing days drew thousands of spectators including numerous celebrities. Waggoner and his sons Guy (1883-1950) and Paul (1889-1967) campaigned for pari-mutuel betting, which was legalized in Texas from 1934 to 1937. The Racetrack was used for rodeos and other events before the buildings were razed in 1958.

Arlington Downs, a 1¼-mile track with a 6,000-seat grandstand, opened on November 1, 1929, under the guidance of oil and cattle magnate William T. Waggoner. The track was located on his "Three D" stock farm half-way between Dallas and Fort Worth near Arlington, and the construction cost was nearly $3 million.

During it's peak, 650 horses ran on the track, profits averaged $113,731 a day, and the average daily attendance was 6,734. As Arlington Downs increased its financial health, Waggoner's physical health broke. On December 11, 1934, he died of a stroke. Nevertheless, the popularity and prestige of Arlington Downs grew throughout the country. In 1937 the Texas Derby was heralded as the "tryouts" for the more famous Kentucky Derby.

At the end of the 1937 regular session the state legislature banned pari-mutuel gambling, and Arlington Downs was sold to commercial developers. The racetrack was used for rodeos and other events until 1958, when the buildings were razed. In 1978 a Texas historical landmark was placed on the site.






Old Arlington Downs Watering Trough
This watering trough is all that is left of the old Arlington Downs Race track. It is located just outside of Everest College. Now it is a flower pot of sorts. The little horses and riders can still be seen along the outside of the trough.





Located near the parking lot as you pull in east of the corner of Six Flags Drive and Commerce Drive



Back to Top O' Hill Terrace



Original Top O' Hill Home

Who came to Top O' Hill Terrace often?

Clyde and Bonnie
Bank Robbers

Howard Hughes
Eccentric Billionaire

Mae West
Movie Actress

Dorothy Franey
Olympic Speed Skater

Jack Ruby
Killed Harvey Lee Oswald

Clark Gable
Movie Actor

Marlene Dietrich
Movie Actress

Gene Autry
Cowboy Actor

Lana Turner
Movie Actress

John Wayne
Cowboy Actor

Ginger Rogers
Movie Actress






and
many
more . . .



Now Arlington Baptist College Administration Building on the same lot.













Tour Coordinator Vickie Bryant (left) and Dina Klotz (interpreter)













First Escape Tunnel





Second Escape Tunnel


















Underground Escape Tunnel (white, dashed line)
Exit of Tunnel (red circle)



See how deep the hill on the right side is.



See how deep the hill at top is.







Original Outdoor Swimming Pool preserved in the warehouse-looking building









WELL HOUSE
The water from this 300; deep artesian well was used to water the palatial grounds.



ROYAL FORD (now Alumni Association House)
This stable with its French-Norman inspired roof, original hopper windows and interior oak paneling was built to house the prize racehorse, Royal Ford.  Royal Ford was purchased for $110,000 from oilman, cattle baron and Arlington Downs owner W.T. Waggoner and trained by Jack Jarvis, inventor of the first electronic starting gate.  The training and breeding evidently paid off; Royal Ford's foal, Heelfly, beat Seabiscuit in 1940.  The sandstone exterior with the name Royal Ford engraved at the entrance and the original watering trough on the south side, remain virtually unchanged.







Inside Royal Ford



Inside Royal Ford



Inside Royal Ford



Inside Royal Ford





Laurel Hill taking a picture of one flower on this tree







Relaxing Monika Jarosh (left) and Patsy Smith (right) under a tree



Tea Garden





A group of NTDSC members touring . . . click on this picture to make it bigger



Side of Tea Garden



The aura of mystery continues . . .

More about this at http://www.abconline.edu/HTML/TopOHill/TopOHill.html



NTDSC's official website: www.ntdsc.org