I wrote this article for the Landmark Preservation Commission and our Historic Preservation Month efforts. It first appeared on the City of Arlington’s website on May 24, 2021. I’m a little late posting it — Historic Preservation Month was in May — but here it is nonetheless.
I mentioned this before, but I used the phrase “Historic Preservation Month” on my blog because that’s what someone else used. I found out later that it’s also referred to as “National Preservation Month” and sometimes shortened to “Preservation Month.” I’m sticking with “Historic Preservation Month” for consistency!
Historic Preservation Month:
By Jason Sullivan
May is Historic Preservation Month! It’s a month dedicated to preserving places that have historical significance. Let’s visit a couple of historical sites on the Bankhead Highway — or as it’s more commonly known today — Division Street.
The Bankhead Highway was named for U.S. Senator John Bankhead, an early supporter of the project. Plans for the road began in 1916, and the portion through Arlington opened in 1922. The highway began in Washington, D.C., and ended in San Diego, California. It was one of the nation’s first transcontinental highways. Along the way, it traveled more than 850 miles in Texas, from Texarkana to El Paso. It connected Dallas, Arlington, and Fort Worth, among many others. There is a Texas Historical Marker at Center and Division streets across from the historic Vandergriff Building. The marker commemorates “The Bankhead Highway Through Arlington.”
Much of Arlington’s early commercial development occurred along the Bankhead Highway. Any road that caters to motorists is going to have restaurants. Two eateries on the Bankhead Highway — Triangle Inn and Top O’ Hill Terrace Tea Room — have a colorful history. One of them continued to be a restaurant, and 90 years later, it still is. The other became known for its illegal casino and today is part of Arlington Baptist College.
Triangle Inn (1724 W. Division Street) opened in 1921. Patrons came for the food and the gambling upstairs. (They likely shared some clientele with nearby Top O’ Hill Terrace.) Later, the restaurant became Arlington Steakhouse. Jambo’s BBQ took over the building five years ago, and boasts the “Best BBQ on the Bankhead Hwy.” It’s a historic building and the oldest continually operating restaurant in Arlington. The site is a City of Arlington Local Landmark.
Top O’ Hill Terrace (3001 W. Division Street) began as a tea room and restaurant in the early 1920s. When the new owners took over, they made some adjustments. They put in an underground casino with escape tunnels and secret rooms. During the 1930s-1940s, it was a hotspot for the famous and infamous, along with the noteworthy and notorious. Today, you can tour the Top O’ Hill Terrace and get a glimpse of what it was like. The site is a City of Arlington Local Landmark and has a Texas Historical Marker.
While these were some fun stops along the Bankhead Highway, it was undoubtedly a historic route with a significant impact on the country. The Bankhead Highway increased commerce, improved transportation, and helped transform Arlington into a thriving community. It had a similar effect on other communities along its route.
Division Street in Arlington still has the spirit of the old highway and its motorists — with restaurants, car dealerships, service stations, and motor courts. There are flashes of nostalgia to another time, and many places have historical significance. A drive down the old Bankhead Highway is a perfect way to celebrate Historic Preservation Month.
This article first appeared on the City of Arlington’s website on May 24, 2021. It was written for the City of Arlington’s Landmark Preservation Commission.
Blog and photos by Jason S. Sullivan, 06-14-21