The Dallas Skyline from the Maple Terrace Penthouse — 1952

by Paula Bosse

feldman_terrace_huntington-detView from the penthouse (click for larger image) Huntington Library

by Paula Bosse

The best view of the Dallas skyline that no longer exists may very well have been the view from atop the Maple Terrace Apartments, located on Maple Avenue, right across Wolf Street from the Stoneleigh Hotel. The photo above was taken in 1952, when there was a straight-shot view of downtown, with no hulking buildings to spoil the vista. This view — completely unobstructed except for the Stoneleigh (out of frame, at left) — must have been spectacular at night. (Although, as can be seen at the far right, the industrial area that surrounded the iconic DP&L smokestacks was also part of the view. Also not included in realtor brochures would have been the fact that the luxury apartment building overlooked the adjacent Little Mexico neighborhood, often described as a “slum area” — the huge economic disparity between the neighboring haves and have-nots would have been starkly apparent to any gimlet-sipping rooftop visitor. And then there was the not-so-distant meat-packing plant…. But I digress.)

The beautiful Maple Terrace Apartments — designed by architect Alfred Bossom (who also designed the Magnolia Building) — was built in 1924-25 and opened with great fanfare as the city’s first luxury apartments.

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An early tenant was Morris Feldman, a Polish immigrant whose family owned the successful Parisian Fur Co. (later Parisian-Peyton). Morris’ son, the incredibly wealthy oilman and art collector, D. D. Feldman, must have been quite taken with his parents’ home there, because in the late ’40s or early ’50s, he transformed the entire seventh floor — which had previously contained 20 “hotel-type” units — into his personal penthouse.  The patio terrace with the to-die-for view was the cherry on the sundae.

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Countless cocktail parties, dinner parties, and fashionable teas were held in the Feldmans’ penthouse. The interior design — the work of Tom Douglas, of Los Angeles — was, apparently, much admired. The decor consisted of a mixture of typically cool Mid-Century Modern pieces as well as a few touches that, from a 21st-century vantage point, look a little … tacky. Somewhere in all of the acreage of furnishings was a fireplace, a white leather-covered piano (!), “a cocoa-striped sofa with pale blue frame,” murals, white brick wallpaper, and several pieces of furniture and cabinetry with a “driftwood finish.” And lots of lacquer. And mirrors, mirrors, mirrors. These “timeless furnishings in beige, marigold, white leather and ash” (DMN, Nov. 19, 1960) are dated relics of another era, but, at the time, they were splashed across the pages of magazines such as Architectural Digest.

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As far as I know, the seventh floor of the Maple Terrace is still a single space. A 1978 real estate ad touted its “recently redecorated” 3,000 sq. ft. amenities:

maple-terrace-penthouse_dmn_032278DMN, Mar. 22, 1978

Below, the present-day penthouse floor plan from the Maple Terrace’s website:

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And, look, here’s a photo of what that entryway looks like now, (without the mural):

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I’m sure the rooftop terrace is still as beautiful as ever, but, sadly, it will never again boast of that once-incredible view:

maple-terrace-view-today

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Top photo (and all black and white photos from this series) by Maynard L. Parker, for Architectural Digest; from the Maynard L. Parker Collection at the Huntington Library, accessible here. The top photo is a detail, which has been cropped and reversed; the original photo is shown in reverse on the Huntington site (along with some early image “editing” on the outline of the Stoneleigh), which is a bit freaky when you know that what you’re looking at is backwards!

Color photos and floor plan from the website of the Maple Terrace Apartments, here. Biographical info on the architect, Sir Alfred Bossom, is here. Fabulous photos of the building from AIA Dallas, is here; and a wonderful piece on the mystique of living in the famed Maple Terrace from D Magazine, is here.

An intense and thorough description of the Feldmans’ penthouse decor is in the article “Feldman Apartment: Timeless Decorating” by Jeanne Barnes (Dallas Morning News, Nov. 19, 1960); it can be read here.

In addition to his oil holdings, D. D. Feldman was an important collector and patron of Texas art. Below, a photo of him (left) with artists Jack Boynton and Seymour Fogel (DMN, May 27, 1958).

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In reading about Mr. Feldman, my favorite tidbit is this, from the book The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes by Bryan Burrough (Penguin, 2009):

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Click pictures for larger images.

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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