|Nefarious Places in Tarrant County
On top of one of the highest hills in Tarrant County lies a quiet little school called
Arlington Baptist College.
ABC is located on Division Street, which is the main road that links Dallas and Fort
Worth (in Dallas, it's Davis Road; in Fort Worth, it becomes Lancaster Boulevard).
In numerical terms, Division Street is TX 180 (a remnant of old US 80).
This road has always been home to some of the more seedy undercurrents of the
"Metroplex." That's not to say Arlington Baptist College is seedy by any stretch - in
fact, it's quite respectable. What makes its Division Street location so
under-belly-like is that the college used to be one of the biggest gambling halls,
bordellos, and speakeasies in the Southwest.
Arlington Baptist College used to be Top of the Hill Terrace. Built in the 1920s out
of native sandstone, it was first used as a Tea Garden. Under new owners, the
complex served illegal booze and hosted a casino during Prohibition. Patrons
used a tunnel to escape during raids.
A baptist minister supposedly vowed to shut down the sinful operation, and in the
1950s, he got his wish: Arlington Baptist College was opened on the site of this
former den of decadence.
|The guard house at the front gate of Top o' the Hill
Terrace, where a guard would alert the casino when
police were coming for a raid.
|A lonely ruin behind the stone walls at Top o'
the Hill Terrace
|The escape tunnel, where many a
patron would outrun the law.
The Tarrant County Courthouse is located squarely in the middle of Main
Street in Fort Worth. From its perch on a bluff by the Trinity River, it bestows
its attention onto the Stockyard in the north. To the south, the courthouse has
a wonderful view of the strange disc that is the Fort Worth Convention Center,
which looks like it was accidentally parked, then abandoned, by aliens.
Until the 1960s, however, the courthouse left an imposing impression on
those plying their trades in Hell's Half Acre. Fort Worth's red light district,
which once featured saloons, gambling halls, and bordellos, would in later
years house pawn shops, strip joints, betting parlors, and pubs. Its dilapidated
glory was obliterated during Fort Worth's urban renewal project. The only
thing left from Hell's Half Acre is the Catholic Church, which no doubt had
heard many a confession during Fort Worth's sinful days.
Today, many tourists mistakenly believe that the Fort Worth Stockyards was
the location of Hell's Half Acre, mainly because the famous White Elephant
Saloon relocated there. The sign at the front of the saloon tells of a gunfight
that happened out front, but note that the original shoot-out occurred at Hell's
|A giant alien spaceship, uh, I mean, the Convention Center,
is now the view to the south from the stairs of the Tarant
County Courthouse. Just forty years ago, the eyes of
Justice rested on the remnants of the notorious Hell's Half
|This Catholic Church is the only
remnant of Fort Worth's "sin city."
|The Santa Fe depot occupies the
eastern end of Hell's Half Acre,
TX Highway 199 is known as the Jackboro Highway. Running north west out of
downtown Fort Worth (where it begins as Henderson Avenue), this road used
to be *the* place to imbibe, sell, and bootleg booze to the dry areas in West
Texas. With its proximity to the Stockyards, the businesses along Jacksboro
Highway did a booming business every weekend.
For you Larry McMurtry fans: Jacksboro Highway is the road that Duane and
Sonny of The Last Picture Show took when they decided to get down and dirty
in Fort Worth.
Today, Jacksboro Highway is home to chain restaurants and stores (and a very
lively weekend Mexican flea market). Its shady past, however, can be seen in
some pockets dotting the four lane road, where old dance clubs have been
converted to muffler shops, and motor courts into trailer parks.
The neighborhoods around Jacksboro Highway are unique for their geography
as well as their architecture. Eclectic styles of Victorian, Queen Anne and
Prairie cottages sit side by side some broad and tree-lined streets.
|The Rocket Club now offers welding
services instead of beer.
|A trip for those of us who like to watch parties, not actually participate in them,
or who weren't invited in the first place!
|Tea, Gambling, and Religion: Texas at its Best at Top o' the Hill Terrace
|A View to Nowhere: The Notorious West at Hell's Half Acre
|A Highway to Fun and then a White Lightening Run: TX 199, Jacksboro Highway
|Arlington Baptist College gives tours of
the former speakeasy. Visit this page to