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Real Estate / Houses

Legendary Texas Socialite’s Fabulous Gold Crest Apartment Hits the Market

Tales From Inside a True Dallas Dream Home

BY // 01.24.19

If price were no object, what house on the market today in Dallas would I buy?

Even if price were no object, I still wouldn’t buy the biggest and most lavish house out there. I like smaller spaces, and always with a view to the horizon. Dallas does sky views so well — we have the kind of airspace New York can only dream about.

I’d almost given up finding a perfect listing for this story when I Googled these keywords, “Turtle Creek Boulevard for sale.” The Gold Crest popped up — undoubtably the best mid-century building on Dallas’ most iconic and beautiful boulevard.

Designed by architect George Dahl, best known for his Art Deco-era buildings at Fair Park, The Gold Crest set the standard for modern Dallas when it opened in 1965. And it still holds up. Where else do you find broad, wraparound terraces for every apartment?

The lobby, with its gorgeous book-matched walnut and marble, remains as sleek and appropriate for the original design as ever. It was Dahl’s personal favorite — he lived and worked out of an apartment on the seventh floor until his death in 1987. Recently, I wrote about artist Pam Nelson’s colorful apartment there, located in what once Dahl’s own studio. You can check it out here.

The Gold Crest has always been my favorite building in Dallas, and I’d live there in a heartbeat. But there’s actually more to the story.

Of the two available units currently for sale in the building, one happens to have belonged to the inimitable Betty Blake. It’s a corner unit on the 8th floor, listed for $895,000 — a bargain in my mind for something with such provenance, and with such a grand view.

I have written about Blake occasionally during the decades, including for PaperCity after she died in 2016 at age 100. She was a social and artistic force, noted for introducing Texas to modern art in the 1950s, when she opened the Betty McLean Gallery, which was her name then. I can’t claim to have known her, but I have great memories of a photoshoot I produced at this same Gold Crest apartment, back in 2007.

Betty Blake, circa 1950s

First, let me digress. What is it about real estate photos that render them totally unrecognizable to the actual space? The use of a fish-eye lens? The utter lack of awareness for composing a pleasant shot? Do they actually want to sell the place? That’s copy for another story, one which I’m sure our ad reps hope I never write.

Photographs, good or bad, rarely do any space justice. It’s the people who lived in them, and the experiences enjoyed there that give it soul. Right off, however, I’d say Betty’s old apartment needs a totally new kitchen and bathrooms, and I’d rip out the carpeting for sure.

Who knows what other tweaks I’d make, but money’s limitless here, so it’s hardly even worth going into. What I remember about that early morning photoshoot with Betty Blake 14 years ago is what gives the place gravitas — and for me it’s what brought the place alive.

An Unforgettable Day With Betty Blake

Even at age 92, Betty had a busy schedule planned that day. Her close friend, legendary Newport Rhode Island socialite Oatsie Charles — then in her late 80s — had arrived the night before, and was staying in the guest room. Our photographer, the talented Danny Piassick, set up the lighting and camera equipment in the living room, and I had a quick cup of coffee in the kitchen.

Suddenly, Oatsie appeared in the kitchen doorway, buck naked, apparently lost on the way to the bathroom. She didn’t miss a beat, however, and boomed, “Well, this is a hell of a way to meet!” We both burst out laughing, and after I pointed her in the right direction, she meandered down the hall to the bathroom.

Later that afternoon, we only had two more shots to get before the sun was gone, including Betty’s own lovely pink bedroom. No sooner had I uttered the words “Let’s shoot the bedroom,” than Betty announced that she was going to take a nap, and crawled under the covers. Her tiny dog perched on the bed next to her.

In desperation, I looked around for other areas in the bedroom we might shoot. Her vanity mirror on the opposite side of the room solved the problem — we shot into the mirror, which reflected the other half of the bed that Betty wasn’t in. The picture came out great, and no one was ever the wiser.

Our last shot of the day was the guest bedroom with its beautiful antique French daybed. A shaft of gold light gleamed across the room, and if we didn’t shoot it right then, we’d lose the shot entirely. Oatsie packed her bags as I made the bed. She was trying to get to the airport, and I was hoping to get at least one shot before the light died.

In her haste, she knocked her cosmetics case off the bed   — and what looked to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewelry tumbled out. Diamond bracelets, brooches and gigantic rings studded with emeralds, rubies, and all kinds of precious stones bounced across the floor. The jewels got tangled in the carpeting, necessitating that we get down on our hands and knees and use our fingers as rakes to dislodge them. The scene was panic-inducing and wonderfully ludicrous — like a heist movie where the bandits are bumbling and in a race to grab the loot before the cops arrive.

At one point I looked at Oatsie, and she was sweating as much as I was. In the end, Oatsie made her flight on time, and Danny got a great shot of the bedroom before the light abruptly vanished. I have no idea if we got all her jewelry back into her case —  who knows, there might still be a diamond ring or two ground into the carpeting somewhere.

Wouldn’t that be a great surprise for whoever buys the apartment.

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