|Nefarious Places in Tarrant County
| Before the interstates, Division Street in Arlington was the original road that linked Dallas and Fort
Worth (DFW). In Dallas, this street becomes known as Davis Road; in Fort Worth, it becomes
Lancaster Boulevard. In numerical terms, Division Street is TX 180 (a remnant of old US 80). This
sounds boring, but it's not. Pockets of the road are still graced by mid-century motor courts and
nightclubs, and there were once drive-in movie theaters, pig stands, and race tracks (horses and cars)
along this thirty mile stretch. Old DFW still remains visible, too, on the campus of Arlington Baptist
College. The college is housed in what used to be one of the biggest gambling halls, bordellos, and
speakeasies in the Southwest called Top o' 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 who built the
area's first mega-churchvowed 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
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
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
|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)