This month, The Stoneleigh—pardon, it’s actually now Le Méridien Dallas—will become the second hotel in Dallas to reach its 100th anniversary, following The Adolphus, which opened in 1912. And, just like any old man on his birthday, The Stoneleigh has decades’ worth of yarns to spin. “If only the walls could talk,” says Victoria Clow, president of Preservation Dallas. “I’d love to hear the stories they could tell.”
The neon red Stoneleigh Hotel sign almost never graced the Dallas skyline. Architect F.J. Woerner was so stubborn with his specifications that contractors wouldn’t bid on the design. Yet, according to Woerner’s daughter, Louise Sellers, he didn’t take care to preserve the original blueprints. “Somebody called me when Corrigan bought this, and he said, ‘Do you have the plans?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m sorry, but those were done on linen,’ ” Sellers says. “You know the waxed paper, beautiful linen material. Mamma boiled the wax off and made me clothes out of the plans. It was the most beautiful linen you ever saw.”
Woerner persisted, eventually hiring a contractor, and, in 1923, The Stoneleigh Court Apartment Hotel opened for business at a cost of $1.1 million. It was billed as the tallest hotel west of the Mississippi, even though it had a mere 11 floors to The Adolphus’ 22. The Dallas Morning News called it “the largest and most pretentious apartment hotel ever constructed in the Southwest” just four days before the opening on October 18.
The lobby housed a ladies’ parlor, men’s lounge, and children’s playroom, while the basement housed a full grocery store and market. The 11th-floor ballroom was “where the lovers of Terpsichore will find the perfect floor and appointments that accentuate the rhythm,” according to the Daily Times-Herald.
One patron, Colonel Harry Ewing Stewart, loved The Stoneleigh so much that he bought it and renovated the 11th floor into his personal penthouse. In 1937, with architects Greene, LaRoche & Dahl, he added a 12th floor with a terrace. Dorothy Draper, the first woman to own an interior design firm in the United States, designed the penthouse, adding personal flare by hanging the wallpaper upside down. Air conditioning was added to all the guest suites, and, as a Prohibition workaround, secret passages were installed in the penthouse walls.
Leo F. Corrigan, who bought the hotel in 1943, led the second major renovation, adding a swimming pool and the iconic imported lions that guard the door. Malaysian investors bought the property and added a sushi restaurant in the ’90s; a 22-story luxury condo tower was added in 2012.
“Everything you may see is not the full story,” says Carolyn Howard, Preservation Dallas’ executive director. “We’re spoiled with the new, but the character is vibrant at The Stoneleigh.”
This story originally appeared in the October issue of D Magazine with the headline, “The Stoneleigh at 100.” Write to [email protected].