Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Top O' Hill Terrace

 The folks took of a tour of Top O' Hill Terrace.  Top O' Hill Terrace was known as "Vegas" before Vegas. In the early 1920's, the property was a tea room which also served meals.  In the late 1920's, Fred and Mary Browning purchased the property and converted the facilities into a casino, adding an escape tunnel and secret room for hiding the gambling paraphernalia during raids. Many famous people visited the casino.  John Wayne, Liberace, Bonnie and Clyde, Clark Gable, Bugsy Siegel,  Benny Binion; Ted Hinton,  Hedy Lamarr, Lana Turner, Marlene Dietrich, W.C. Fields; stripper Sally Rand; reclusive businessman Howard Hughes; boxers Jack Dempsey and Max Baer; band leaders Tommy Dorsey and Tex Beneke were among some of the visitors.

 There were guards at the entrance to the hidden casino and only certain people were allowed inside.  If the police showed up for the raid, the guards pushed a button which sounded an alarm in the casino.  Items could quickly be stored in walls and secret rooms.  Gamblers would escape through hidden tunnels.  This worked well until one guest who had a cast on his leg fell in the tunnel and couldn't get up.  All the people behind him were trapped in the tunnel and they were all arrested.  In 1947, officers crawled up in the hill and caught the gamblers by surprise.  The casino was shut down for good.  In 1956, the property was bought and it became a Baptist college.  It remains a Baptist college to this day.  I forgot to mention there was also a brothel on the property in the casino days.

The tour guide has been researching the history of this place for the past 14 years.  Her husband is a pastor.  She said they have never allowed a deck of cards in their home, but she has bought poker chips and roulette wheels for her tour.  She is really dedicated to finding out all she can about the history.  There is one tunnel that has been uncovered, but she thinks there are probably five in total.

The tour consists of sitting on some really hard wooden chairs from the casino days and watching a slide show for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Vickie Bryant, the tour guide, showed various items that have been donated to the museum. Then, the tour group rides a golf cart to various places on the grounds.  On weekends, visitors can see the one tunnel and secret room that have been found. It cannot be toured during the week because you have to go into the kitchen of the cafeteria and they prepare food during that time.  The tour is a donation of $5 a person.

One of the two tours that the guards used.
Backside of the entrance.

The tea garden

The fountain inside the tea garden.

Inside the tea garden
Another wall of the tea garden.

The tunnel coming out of the building.

View from top of the tea garden.
 The folks said the tour was interesting. It would be even better if guests were allowed to walk through the tunnel.

On the way home, they saw this:

Dad thought it was really funny.  It is not funny that Carolyn died, but it is just worded funny.  He wonders if Carolyn was on the waitstaff.

If you are interested in learning more, there are several short videos about the Top O' Hill Terrace. Click here: Top O'Hill Terrace.  Click on the left hand side where TV stations are listed.

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