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, who
supposedly included
Bonnie and Clyde, 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 Half Acre.
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 Acre.
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 weldingnservices 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
learn more.
Questions or comments? E-mail me: robin@redriverhistorian.com
Fort Worth's notorious "Hell's Half Acre," which served as the city's vice and entertainment district in the late 1800s, was roughly located
between the T&P depot to the south and the courthouse to the north. This portion of a "Bird's Eye View" map provides the dimensions (vantage
is from the east, looking west): Jones street to Rusk street, and Seventh to 11th streets.  (Amon Carter Museum)