|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 Stockyards 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: 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 Lightning Run: TX 199, Jacksboro Highway
|Arlington Baptist College gives tours of the former speakeasy. Visit this page to learn more.
|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)
|Fort Worth's "Hell's Half Acre" remained the down-market part of town well into the 20th century, especially after the Stockyards claimed many
of its former customers. This 1968 photograph by Jack White shows a portion of Houston Street, which had already been slated for demolition
to make way for the Convention Center. (UT Arlington Special Collections)
|The Jacksboro Highway was the main road to Wichita Falls in 1940. Here it is north of downtown Fort Worth. (UT Arlington Special Collections)