This underground tunnel in Arlington hold clues to city’s gambling history. Now the search is on to find more.

“People when they needed to escape from the gambling which was illegal I guess, they would go out the tunnel,” Tillie Burgin said

ARLINGTON, Texas — Tours are underway on the property of a historic landmark in Arlington, where city leaders have forged a relationship that may uncover hidden underground tunnels. 

The people who operate Arlington Baptist University (ABU) are working with Arlington Mayor Jim Ross to preserve history. They share intriguing details of their known underground tunnel and are now using technology to find more tunnels. 

From the air, a drone team is searching for additional underground tunnels. Their technology analyses what’s beneath the surface.

Dr. Robert Hendricks from the company Elevate is supervising the drone work. They will use the data collected to determine if or where there are more tunnels. Then Dr. Hendricks will create 3D models for ABU. 

“We are looking for variations that could potentially indicate tunnels or other underground features,” Dr. Hendricks said. 

As early as the 1920’s this was an escape route from the Top O’ Hill Terrace underground casino. The university even has one of the original roulette tables from back then. Visitors who tour ABU will learn famous people like Bonnie & Clyde, Ginger Rogers, and a long list of notables used the tunnel to escape during raids.  

For Mayor Jim Ross teaming up with ABU is a win-win situation for the city and the university. 

“Turning this into a museum where people can come out and enjoy a rich piece of North Texas history, and it’s a great partnership, said Ross.

Stories about the hidden tunnel cross generations too. Tour guide Vicky Bryant has conducted multiple interviews with people who were regular patrons at Top O Hill Terrace. They shared their stories about escaping through the tunnel when authorities raided the hidden casino. 

Eighty-five-year-old Arlington missionary Tillie Burgin visited Top O’ Hill Terrace with her father. He worked on cars for casino visitors determined not to get caught. Burgin recalls pool tables and other gambling furniture being quickly turned into normal-looking furniture when police entered the Top O Hill Terrace on suspicion of illegal gambling. 

“People when they needed to escape from the gambling which was illegal I guess, they would go out the tunnel,” Burgin said.

The tunnels opened up to an aging historic patio. The gaming participants would go to the patio through the tunnel during the raids. That’s where they would appear normal, drink tea, and eat. 

President Clifton McDaniel started working to preserve the history surrounding the underground tunnels as he learned more about the grounds his university sits on.

“We pride ourselves in being number one on TripAdvisor in Arlington,” McDaniel said.

Mayor Jim Ross believes even if they don’t locate many more underground tunnels at ABU the history behind one tunnel is fascinating all by itself.

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