From Poker to Preachers
December 3, 2007 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Learn how the most opulent casino in the North American hemisphere, complete with guard turrets and escape tunnels, became a Baptist College in 1956.

Predating Las Vegas and frequented by the likes of John Wayne, Howard Hughes, Joe Louis, Lana Turner, Will Rogers, Bonnie Parker, and Clyde Barrow the Top O’ Hill Terrace was proclaimed by Dr. J. Frank Norris, cofounder of Bible Baptist Seminary, "A blight on Tarrant County. One of these days we are going to own the place!"
posted by punkfloyd (13 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Web 0.4
posted by parmanparman at 11:36 AM on December 3, 2007

When did North America become a hemisphere, anyhow?
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:37 AM on December 3, 2007

And the house still always wins.
posted by wendell at 11:39 AM on December 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

Yeah, that web design is shee-yow ugly. Still, interesting story.
posted by the dief at 11:57 AM on December 3, 2007

And now they're gambling on God.

whoa, I love history labyrinths like this story. A plumber designed the place, interesting. It was thought of as a kind of "Six Flags of Sin".

Your post had me wandering the web in search of details. Here are a few. The cop who hunted down Fred Browning, the plumber turned casino head honcho, was named Captain M. T. Gonzaullas: Lone Wolf, the story of Texas Ranger Captain M. T. Gonzaullas, the Only Texas Ranger Captain of Spanish Descent.

"Capt. M.T. Gonzaullas, who was dubbed the "Lone Wolf" as a result of the raid, took 50 patrons and eight employees into custody. Fred Browning paid hismisdemeanor fines and resumed operating days later." pdf. Texas Ranger History; "Gamblers and Gangsters of Jacksboro Highway"; Jim Gatewood is a Dallas historian.

Fred Browning the plumber-casino head was deposed related to JFK's assassination because of his connection with Jack Ruby's gambling friends and Texas organized crime.
posted by nickyskye at 12:05 PM on December 3, 2007

Well, that place has certainly gone downhill.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:34 PM on December 3, 2007

I have researched this place as it relates to the JFK assassination and there are some interesting stories about it that I will dig up and post here later. One involves LBJ campaigning for the senate (1948) and meeting at the casino with Benny Binion and Meyer Lansky.
posted by mattbucher at 12:55 PM on December 3, 2007

@mattbucher: I'm very interested in that. I grew up a mile from the place and we used to run around the grounds (1970s). I am going to take the tour they offer.
posted by punkfloyd at 1:00 PM on December 3, 2007

I'm mainly interested in the nightlife of Dallas in the 40s-60s. Here are a few notes I started on Bennie Bickers, a really interesting figure of those times.

I mention Lewis McWillie there. He worked at Top O' The Hill in the 1940s as a dealer (and possibly as a boss / manager). Here's his testimony before the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
posted by mattbucher at 1:49 PM on December 3, 2007

When did North America become a hemisphere, anyhow?

Sorry, that should be Universe, the error was made in production.
posted by mattoxic at 2:53 PM on December 3, 2007

Wow, this is great; I have a lot of relatives in the area and grew up visiting Arlington about once a year, but never knew about this place (although my grandmother lived only a few blocks away). This post reminds me of this earlier post; stuff like this is why I joined MeFi!
posted by TedW at 3:15 PM on December 3, 2007

This 9'Xll' woodbine sandstone building housed a pump which pumped water from a 600' artesian well.

If it needs to be pumped, it ain't an artesian well.
posted by raygirvan at 8:07 PM on December 3, 2007

Up until 1951 or so, the Top of the Hill club was run by Earl Dalton and Ivy Miller, who later went on to buy the Cipango Club in Turtle Creek. If anyone can find some pictures of the inside of the Cipango Club of the 40s and 50s, I'd love to see them! It closed in 1986 and is now a parking lot for the Mansion at Turtle Creek, but in its heyday it was supposedly the most exclusive night club in Dallas.
posted by mattbucher at 2:52 PM on December 4, 2007

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