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Quinta Mazatlan — a gift from a Renaissance man

 
Quinta Mazatlan  — a gift from a Renaissance man
HARRY & LINDA KAYE PEREZ Jason Chilton Matthews, often called a Renaissance man, personally built Quinta Mazatlan.

In the Texas Rio Grande Valley -- more specifically, McAllen, just a 240-mile drive from La Vernia -- is a place where adventure, history, opulence, and nature collided. Quinta Mazatlan is a World Birding Center, but once you learn its history, you will be intrigued and in awe of the man who built it and how it evolved into what it is today.

Jason Chilton Matthews (1887-1964), an eccentric composer, writer, and adventurer who traveled throughout the world collecting artifacts and stories, and served in 11 countries during World War I, is that man. He was even said to have fought alongside Lawrence of Arabia. In 1935, Matthews, often called the Renaissance man, finally decided to settle down and brought his Pennsylvania-born wife, Marcia Jamieson (1887-1963), to McAllen, Texas. Together they built their dream home, a beautiful Spanish revival style mansion, and regarded it as “Crossroads of the Western Hemisphere.”

As a self-made man, Matthews personally constructed much of the home; he first experimented with adobe by building an adobe block bathing pool and cottage. Since its construction, this home with a Roman tub, cottage, and greenhouse has been considered one of the largest adobe structures in Texas -- 10,000 square feet. He carefully addressed every aspect of the design.

Using his greenhouse, Matthews experimented with agricultural products, including the study of hydroponics. During World War II, it was reported that the U.S. military used the techniques developed at Quinta Mazatlan to grow tomatoes on the island of Guam in order to feed the troops.

In 1967, three years after Matthews’ death, Hurricane Beulah made a direct hit on this area and all but destroyed this once-beautiful mansion. One year later, Frank and Marilyn Schultz purchased the property at auction for a mere $24,000 and invested a considerable amount of time and money, painstakingly restoring it to its former glory. They lived there for the next 30 years.

The City of McAllen purchased the property in 1998 in order to protect the history and to preserve the significance of the environment. More importantly, their mission was to provide a sanctuary for the more than 300 butterfly and 500 bird species that migrate through the Valley, or that call it their permanent home.

Anytime is a good time to visit Quinta Mazatlan, but from October through April special tours are included in the $3 admission fee: the Songbird Stroll, a walk through the

 
 
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