Illegal casino site makes Historic Fort Worth's endangered places list

The Top O'Hill Terrace Garden in Arlington is included on Historic Fort Worth’s 2015 Most Endangered Places list.
The Top O'Hill Terrace Garden in Arlington is included on Historic Fort Worth’s 2015 Most Endangered Places list. Star-Telegram archives

Top O’Hill Terrace, the underground illegal gambling operation in Arlington that was closed down in the 1940s, has been named to Historic Fort Worth’s 2015 Most Endangered Places list.

The property, at 3001 W. Division St., made the list for the first time. So did the former Meissner-Brown Funeral Home at 2717 Avenue B in Fort Worth’s Polytechnic neighborhood, and Barron Field, at 1180 Everman Parkway, a World War I pilot training field.

In addition, in keeping with its theme of adding places — not specific properties — the list includes Cowboys & Culture, encompassing the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards and city’s Cultural District on the west side.

Phillip Murrin, a Stockyards property owner who nominated the district for the list, told those attending the unveiling on the west steps of Thistle Hill Wednesday that several more steps need to be taken to protect the Stockyards, including the city approving an historic overlay district, which carries strict criteria when changes are planned for a property or new construction is proposed.

The Stockyards, first added to the Endangered Place list in 2012, earned a mention again as it faces redevelopment by California-based Majestic Realty and Fort Worth’s Hickman family. Its that development that has Stockyards property and business owners, and others, concerned

The Stockyards “is far more than a collection of architectural relics,” Murrin said, but one of the city’s “most important resources. Preserving our heritage . . . must be given priority over near financial gain.”

In June 2014, the Fort Worth City Council approved property and sales tax incentives for the Stockyards Heritage project valued at the time at $26 million. Because the incentives will be paid out over 25 years, and if the developers meet investment goals set by city staff, estimates are the value of the incentives could swell to about $67 million.

The Cultural District is bounded by Montgomery Street on the west, Seventh Street in the north, University Drive on the east and Interstate 30 on the south. The city owns most of the land and buildings on the site. It has appeared on the list in 2008 and in 2012.

A $450 million, 14,000-seat multipurpose arena and sports facility is planned for the Cultural District. The city is paying half of the cost, with the private sector committing to the rest. The arena could open in 2019. It will be used for the Stock Show and also host concerts, sporting events and family shows.

By including it on its list, Historic Fort Worth hopes to open dialogue with the city, neighborhood organizations and a private group they believe has a master plan for the district. In particular, Historic Fort Worth said it is worried about parking and would like to see tax increment finance district help pay for public parking, much like the Downtown TIF.

“Paid parking disconnects donors and the public from great arts and cultural institutions in Fort Worth’s Cultural District,” a report by Historic Fort Worth states. “Funding is not the issue, planning together is.”

The group releases its Endangered Places list every May as part of National Preservation Month. The list is designed to increase awareness of historic places and sites that have been neglected and are in jeopardy of being demolished and lost for good. The group started the list in 2004.

Top O’Hill Terrace topped the list. It was built in the 1920s as a tea room, but its second owners excavated a basement and tunnels to use for an illegal casino. The property closed in the 1940s, but bought in 1956 by Bible Baptist Seminary, now Arlington Baptist College.

Meissner-Brown Funeral Home as built in 1937 in the Spanish Eclectic style. It was designated by the city in 1991 as a Fort Worth Historic and Cultural Landmark. It operated as a funeral home until the 1980s. The city owns the property and in January requested to demolish the building.

The 12-acre Barron Field site may be the last remaining piece of any World War I flying field in the country, the organization said. There no longer are any buildings on the site, but the field serves as an important archaeological resource.

The land was sold in November by Weyerhaeuser Co. to Everman Industrial Llc., according to deed records. Kyle Poulson in Fort Worth is the managing member of Everman Industrial, according to state records.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727

Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST