Front elevation

Front elevation

Wide angle of front entry

Wide angle of front entry

Carved door by Mansbendel, patterned after Spanish Governors Palace

Carved door by Mansbendel, patterned after Spanish Governors Palace

Door detail

Door detail

Door detail

Door detail

Door detail

Door detail

Historical photo of Jason Matthews (circa 1935)

Historical photo of Jason Matthews (circa 1935)

Historical photo of Jason Matthews (circa 1935)

Historical photo of Jason Matthews (circa 1935)

Quinta Mazatlan Texas Historical marker

Quinta Mazatlan Texas Historical marker

Example Frame

Quinta Mazatlan-Jason C. Matthews (McAllen, TX)

Architect/Builder: Jason C. Matthews
Year: 1930
Style: Spanish Hacienda
Areas of Significance: Architecture, Art
City: McAllen

 Quinta Mazatlan

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

Composer, 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.”

Matthews personally 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.

A 1,450 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.

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