This event was part of the on going “Wine & Words” Speaker Series held the evening of Saturday, April 1, 2023 at Chandor Gardens, Weatherford, TX where attendees heard the story of “Top O’ Hill Terrace: Poker to Preachers” by speaker Vickie Bryant, historian, author, curator, and pastor’s wife.
The story of Top O’ Hill Terrace, known as “Vegas before Vegas”, see,ms improbable, unbelievable, and even impossible. It is a Texas story stranger than fiction, but a story that is absolutely true!
On the surface, Top O’ Hill Terrace appeared to be an elegant tearoom located along the Bankhead Highway between Fort Worth and Dallas. However, on the underside, during the 1930’s and 1940’s lurked a glitzy speakeasy and notorious casino. Top O’ Hill Terrace was the “it” place to gamble before Las Vegas became the gambling mecca of the nation.
Top O’ Hill Terrace was a place where the rich and famous rubbed shoulders with the rich and infamous. Some of the casino’s more famous visitors included; Marlene Dietrich, Will Rogers, Mae West, John Wayne, Dean Martin, Hedy Lamarr, Howard Hughes, W. C. Fields, Lana Turner, Frank Sinatra, as well as high-profile gangsters like Bugsy Siegel, Bonnie Parker, and Clyde Barrow.
Fred Browning the clever and savvy owner of Top O’ Terrace casino had many powerful friends, but also had powerful enemies: law enforcement and Rev. J. Frank Norris, pastor of First Baptist Church and co-founder of Bible Baptist Seminary (now Arlington Baptist University). Norris vowed one day to own Top O’ Hill Terrace. His prediction came true in 1956 when the Bible Baptist Seminary, purchased the property and converted it from a casino to a seminary.
Speaker Vickie Bryant has spent the last 20 years collecting memorabilia, photographs, and stories about Top O’ Hill Terrace. Giving her the ability to pull her audience back in time to the days of moonshine and poker, or as she likes to say, from “Poker to Preachers.” The rich history began with a simple tearoom and evolved into illegal gambling, moonshine, brothels, and murder.
Tickets were $30, doors opened at 6:30 p,m, and the presentation stated at 7:00 p.m.
The book Top O' Hill Terrace by Vickie Bryant and Camille Hess (Publisher - Arcadia Publishing, 183 Images, 128 pages) was available for purchase after the presentation.
Authors Vickie Bryant and Camille Hess have been friends for more than 30 years, and both married Baptist ministers who graduated from Bible Baptist Seminary. Bryant, an Ohio native, began an interest in the school's history when her husband, Dr. David Bryant, was named president of the college. She started researching its colorful past and became founder and curator of the Top O' Hill Collection. Hess, born and raised on Fort Worth's North Side, has managed a medical office and owned an art gallery and antique shop. Currently, she enjoys assisting Bryant in her ongoing search for information.
Chandor Gardens Foundation Inc. was honored to collaborate with The Cliburn to offer its FREE music education program Cliburn Kids Live! for elementary school age children (6 to 12 years old) on Thursday, March 16, 2023 (during the week of Spring Break) at Chandor Gardens, 711 W. Lee Ave, Weatherford, TX from 10:30 A.M. to 11:30 A.M.
The theme for this program was:
“A Celebration of Latin America Classical Music”, celebrating the unique language of Latin American classical music, exploring the instruments, dances, and rhythms of the region, and showing how composers portray their identity and traditions through the piano .It featured works by: FRANK, PONCE, NAVARRO, CARREÑO, VILLA-LOBOS, DEL AGUILA
The Cliburn Kids Live! Programs introduce young audiences to classical music. Thie program presents the excitement of live piano performances to students and reinforces the basic elements of music through fun, interactive activities within the context of classical piano repertoire, which enable students to approach music through multiple intelligences.
It certainly was a unique and fun interactive activity for the children who attended.
The following were The Cliburn Host & Pianist for this event:
Sara Doan – Host
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Sara Doan began studying piano at the age of 3 with Donna Edwards. Under her tutelage, Ms. Doan won top prizes in several state and regional competitions. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in piano performance at the University of North Texas, and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts at TCU.
Ms. Doan has performed with the Meadows Symphony Orchestra (Dallas) and the North Texas Symphony Orchestra (Denton). She has presented recitals across Texas, and in Oklahoma, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. In December 2010, Ms. Doan served as guest artist in the First International Piano Festival of Bogota, Colombia where she performed, taught master classes, led discussions, and served on the competition jury.
Ms. Doan has served as collaborative pianist-in-residence at Southeastern Oklahoma State and adjunct professor of piano at the University of North Texas. She maintains a private studio in the DFW area and is an adjunct professor at Tarrant County College -Northwest Campus, while performing regularly with her chamber groups, Trio 8831 and Apana Trio. She also presents lectures and educational programs through the Fort Worth Music Fund and Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth.
Dzmitry Ulasiuk - Pianist
Pianist Dzmitry Ulasiuk was raised in an environment of classical music in Minsk, Belarus. He started professional piano studies at age 16 and performed a solo recital of all Chopin music one year later. While working on his doctorate in Belarus, he was recruited to study at TCU. He then continued his studies at SMU, and finally completed his doctorate degree in piano performance at the University of North Texas. A laureate of 17 international piano competitions, Dr. Ulasiuk has performed worldwide, in both solo recitals and with orchestras. In addition to concertizing, he loves to teach and has a thriving piano studio in Plano.
For his Carnegie debut, a critic wrote, “There are times when a reviewer simply decides to put pencil and paper away and enjoy the music, and this was one of those times” (New York Concert Review). Dr. Ulasiuk received critical acclaim for his first two commercial CDs under the Centaur Records label. He is currently working on a third CD of all French music
We are excited to announce that, as of April 1, 2023, the required funds have been raised, and we have now commissioned Fort Worth sculptor Michael Pavlovsky to undertake this life-sized bronze portrait bust of the famed portrait artist and gardener Douglas Chandor (1897– 1953),
We anticipate the this bronze portrait bust will be completed and installed at Chandor Gardens in late 2023 or early 2024.
Thank you so very much to all those who donated to this fundraising project.
This bronze portrait bust will be "in the round," and will include his neck and upper center chest. Douglas will have his pipe in his mouth. The outline of the upper chest area will be "cut" between his neck and shoulders, tapering downwards symmetrically to a rounded bottom front edge. This composition will not include his shoulders. The subject's head will be slightly turned to one side, and his expression will be pleasant. The bronze bust itself, not including the mounting base, will be approximately sixteen inches.
The completed bronze will be situated in a highly visible and trafficked area within the gardens at Chandor Gardens. Creating a pleasant surprise for visitors to the gardens!
It will be placed in the gardens as a focal point, with the intention to visually allow visitors to identify with Douglas Chandor as a person, and a fellow gardener. It will also serve as an educational portal point for visitors to learn about Douglas Chandor’s legacy as a famed artist, visionary gardener, and outstanding citizen of Weatherford, Texas. The signage adjacent to the bust will be in the form of a QR code sign, which when scanned will take visitors to an online page that will provide interesting background details and photos about Douglas Chandor’s life, and will include insights and quotes about Douglas’ approach to gardening in north Texas, and his deep passion for gardening.
Here are a few examples of such quotes and insights:
“God gave me the talent to paint the pictures so that I could sell them to get the money to build the garden.”
Douglas Chandor’s comment to his wife Ina.(Harold Lawrence, Douglas Chandor An English Artist and His Texas Garden, Antler Press, 1999)
“I love the sunny skies of Texas but I want to see her open prairies dotted with gardens.”
Douglas Chandor’s quote per Malcolm Vaughn in his brochure created for the opening of White Shadows under its new name Chandor Gardens .
“Visitors to the garden often found Douglas with fresh mortar repairing a brick walk or wall, with a ladder and pliers stretching wires for the wisteria to which he trained that rampant vine, or on his knees weeding.”
(Harold Lawrence, Douglas Chandor An English Artist and His Texas Garden, Antler Press, 1999)
“Our recognition of Douglas Chandor at the February 2nd  Appreciation Dinner is a gesture long overdue. The reflected credit enjoyed by our city from his renowned White Shadows Gardens [Chandor Gardens]… has been incalculable.”
(James C. Wright Jr., President, Weatherford Chamber of Commerce remarks in the “Douglas Chandor Appreciation Dinner, February 2nd 1953” printed program honoring Douglas Chandor as Weatherford’s very first Citizen of the Year) [The dinner never occurred as Douglas passed away a few weeks prior to the planned date.]
“He designed what was surely one of the most difficult to build and one of the most beautiful one-man gardens in all of gardening history. Douglas Chandor cherished his garden. His work was a labor of love. It stands as an inspiring example of what can be accomplished with wood, stone, water and living plants.”
(Great Gardens of America, Country Beautiful, General editor Carroll C. Calkins, 1969)
The overall project budget is $16,000 and includes; the bronze portrait bust, the purchase of an appropriate base (in keeping with the aesthetic style of Chandor Gardens) to mount the bronze bust on, a name plaque, and related signage.