Quinta Mazatlan-Jason C. Matthews (McAllen, TX)Architect/Builder:
Jason C. MatthewsYear:
Spanish HaciendaAreas of Significance:
The legend of
Quinta Mazatlan begins with an understanding of the name. The word
“Quinta” in Spanish translates to a country house, villa or estate. When
the owners began building the home in the 1930s, the area was
surrounded by grapefruit orchards. The word “Mazatlan” has an ancient
Indian translation in Mexico meaning “Land of the Deer”. The owners,
Jason & Marcia Matthews, frequented the city of Mazatlan in Mexico
and were clearly inspired by the Spanish architecture of the area.
Jason Chilton Matthews
writer, and adventurer, Jason Chilton Matthews (1887-1964) traveled the
globe collecting artifacts and stories while serving in 11 countries
during World War I and even fought alongside Lawrence of Arabia. When he
finally settled in 1935 with his affluent Pennsylvania wife, Marcia
Jamieson (1891-1963), they built Quinta Mazatlan at what Matthews called
the “Crossroads of the Western Hemisphere.”
built much of Quinta Mazatlan on the highest knoll in McAllen. He first
experimented with adobe by building an adobe block bathing pool. When it
was first built in the 1930s, the entire depth of the pool was 12 feet.
It had no filtration system and was known as a draw and fill pool
because it was drained and refilled whenever the water became dirty. It
was filled from a freshwater well located at the backside of the
cottage. Mr. Matthews would attach a six inch pipe to an airplane engine
and jet water fifteen feet through the air, into the swimming pool,
filling it in less than thirty minutes.
The first living quarters
built were the cottage and hootch, which contain 3,325 square feet of
living area. The hootch was Mr. Matthew’s hide-away. When looking for
solitude, he would shimmy up a rope ladder to escape, pulling the ladder
up behind him. The main house, which has 6,739 square feet of living
area, was the next building constructed. This house is where Jason, his
wife Marcia, daughter and son lived for 30 years. An unusual feature of
the house is the aluminum sulfate paint on the inside and outside of the
adobe blocks which Mr. Matthews believed would prevent radar waves from
penetrating the building. An extraordinary feature of the main house is
the front doors. Mr. Matthews commissioned Peter Mansbendel, a famous
Swiss wood carver, to recreate the stately front doors of the Spanish
Governors Palace in San Antonio, Texas. The doors feature two gargoyles
and two cherubs, which are carved in the likeness of the children. The
back corridor of the home is known as the Cedar Hall. Legend says the
ceiling beams are made of Lebanese cedar which was a gift to Mr.
Matthews from the King of Lebanon for his fight alongside Lawrence of
Arabia in Lebanon’s War of Independence from the Turks.
square foot greenhouse was located on the east side of the estate. This
is where Mr. Matthews tried many agricultural experiments, including the
study of hydroponics. It is reported that the U.S. military used these
techniques, developed at Quinta Mazatlan, to grow tomatoes in Guam and
feed soldiers in World War II.
The Matthews published the (New)
American Mercury magazine from their home at Quinta Mazatlan during the
1950s. This leading conservative magazine expressed strong pro-American
views. The original American Mercury magazine was founded in 1924 by
H.L. Mencken and drama critic George Jean Nathan. The magazine featured
writing by some of the most important writers in the United States
during the 1920s and 1930s.
The family lived at Quinta Mazatlan
for 30 years. Marcia Matthews died at the age of 71, on May 22, 1963.
Jason Matthews died a year later on November 30, 1964 at the age of 77.