Arlington is honoring two iconic structures of its history this week with landmark medallions, and chances are that many residents have visited at least one of them.
Arlington Steak House and the former Top O’ Hill Terrace are in close proximity to each other and have shared a colorful bit of Depression-era rowdy past.
The restaurant at 1724 W. Division St. continues to serve its chicken fried steaks and homemade hot rolls to hungry customers, as it has for generations since opening in 1931 as the Triangle Inn. It is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Arlington.
Owners Lynn and Dick Brink took over management of the restaurant in 2012 and remodeled and renovated the familiar building, which is perched on a curve near the railroad tracks. That vantage point used to provide entertainment for diners, who watched train traffic through large windows.
Top O’ Hill, now Arlington Baptist College at 3001 W. Division St., catered to gangsters instead of Bible students when it was a dubious nightspot in the 1930s and ’40s.
After a Texas Rangers raid in 1947 put an end to the gambling, the place was bought by more respectable owners in 1956 and became a Baptist seminary. Arlington Baptist College has kept original structures and even the underground escape tunnels as a cautionary tale of history.
Triangle Inn is said to have drawn a thriving business from Top O’ Hill patrons during those rough and ready days.
“There are rumors and anecdotes from then, including ones of liquor being stored in the restrooms and raids from the authorities,” Clayton Husband, city planning project manager, told the City Council last week regarding the medallions.
The Brinks moved to the city in 1971 and consider themselves “pretty old-time Arlington,” Lynn Brink said. They owned the steak house for years and eventually began operating it themselves.
“We would always eat here,” Brink said. “We love the Arlington Steak House, and we’ve run it the best we can.”
They are proud of the three designations now on the building, including one from the Arlington Historical Society, the new one from the city and another commemorating the restaurant’s history as a business along the old Bankhead Highway.
“That is really an interesting story,” Brink said of Division Street’s Bankhead heritage. “This was the first federally financed highway, and it predated Route 66.”
The council approved both sites for the historical medallions last year on recommendation of the Landmark Preservation Commission. Fifteen medallion sites have been marked in the city since 2009. The sites must be at least 50 years old, accessible to the public, and have historical, archaeological, architectural or cultural significance.
Markers are funded by grants through the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation. The medallion dedication will be on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Top O’ Hill and at 3 p.m. at Arlington Steak House.
The public is invited.