The Iconic Stoneleigh in Dallas Celebrates 100 Years With a Penthouse Speakeasy Party
The Roaring Twenties-themed parties will have a Jazz Age bar and more
Dallas was different 100 years ago. Streets were smaller, the skyline sparse and the population just one-tenth what it is today. But it was a city on the rise, and enterprising developers swooped in to build hotels for the growing community. In 1923, that included The Stoneleigh Court Apartment Hotel, today known as Le Méridien Dallas, The Stoneleigh. Over the past century, it’s undergone numerous changes, drawn celebrities like moths to a flame, and provided a gathering point for visitors and locals alike. This year, the hotel celebrates its centennial with a series of events, including a penthouse speakeasy series that transports guests back to the Roaring Twenties.
Nestled on the corner of Maple Avenue and Wolf Street in Uptown, The Stoneleigh was established in October 1923. Measuring 11 stories tall, the Beaux-Arts style building was designed by F.J. Woerner, and its introduction was rare for the fledgling neighborhood, which had a few residences but no high-rise buildings and zero hotels at the time. The opening helped to ignite high-rise luxury living in Dallas.
The hotel changed hands in 1934, when it was bought by a former visitor, Colonel Harry E. Stewart, who’d become enamored with the property. After the acquisition, he added the first-ever penthouse in Texas, which included a 12th-floor terrace. And he enlisted a famous name to redesign the space: Dorothy Draper, the first female interior design firm owner in the United States.
Draper’s designs included marble flooring, 500-year-old English oak paneling and iconic black-and-white floral wallpaper. She famously instructed the latter to be installed upside down, because she liked the look better.
“The eleventh floor has a lot of the original fixtures and finishes from when it was first built,” says Stacy Martin, general manager of the hotel. For many years, the top floor served as Stewart’s residence, and he brought in wood paneling, mirrors and tables from Italy to outfit the space. “It still looks like an old mansion, and the library looks like a speakeasy,” adds Martin, noting that the former residential rooms have been turned into event spaces named for their past functions: Dining Room, Music Room and Library.
Although the hotel has been updated numerous times over the past century, with another refresh planned for next year, Draper’s influence can still be felt throughout the hotel. “She did a lot of the funky Art Deco things you see,” says Martin. “There are still remnants in the lobby, and the eleventh floor has the cool wallpaper and a curio cabinet. The suites she designed have been redone in her style, and some of the original furniture is still in use.”
Throughout its tenure, the penthouse has seen a slew of celebrity inhabitants, including Elvis Presley (who threw notorious parties), Audrey Hepburn, Aretha Franklin, Andy Warhol and Tom Cruise. Oliver Stone stayed at the hotel while filming JFK, and Isaac Tigret — the co-founder of Hard Rock Café and House of Blues — lived in the penthouse for two years.
Martin says the penthouse has always been appealing to celebrities because it lets them reside in a luxurious private suite while still receiving guests in the living space. “Also, it’s not downtown,” he says. “Especially in its earlier days, it became known as a place where people in the entertainment business could have privacy and stay under the radar.”
This summer, the hotel is letting guests experience the penthouse via speakeasy-style parties on June 15 and August 17 to celebrate the Stoneleigh’s founding. The eleventh floor space will be transformed into a Jazz Age bar, with 1920s-era cocktails, and hotel leaders will give rare tours of the private rooms and offer insights into the hotel’s 100-year history.
Other celebratory events and activities include wine dinners, yogarita (yoga and tequila by the pool) and pop-up shops featuring jewelers, florists and men’s grooming gear. It’s all leading up to the centennial gala on October 26.
“There’s a real feeling of pride around this anniversary,” says Martin. “Not many hotels, especially here, can say they’ve been around for 100 years.”
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