Quinta Mazatlan - a gift from a  Renaissance Man

Published in the La Vernia News on January 22, 2015

Quinta Mazatlan - a gift from a Renaissance man

Quinta Mazatlan

   In the Texas Rio Grande Valley, more specifically - McAllen, just a 240-mile drive from LaVernia, is a place where adventure, history, opulence, and nature collided. Quinta Mazatlan is a World Birding Center but once you to 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 travelled throughout the world collecting artifacts and stories, and serving in 11 countries during World War I, would be that man. He was even said to have fought along side Lawrence of Arabia. In 1935, Matthews, the Renaissance man as he is often called, 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.”

Everyday Journeys

   Harry and Linda Kaye Perez

       As a self-made man, Matthews personally constructed much of the home and 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 as 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 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.

Great Kiskadee

         Anytime is a good time to visit Quinta Mazatlan, but during October through April special tours are included in the $3.00 admission fee: the Songbird Stroll, a walk through the woods observing and hearing local birds with an expert naturalist; the Garden Walk and Talk, an hour-long tour and discussion of the importance of native plants, and History of Quinta Mazatlan Tour, where you can walk through the mansion and gardens and hear stories of the Matthews family. But, even without the tours, you can find your way through the mansion or sit for hours in the gardens, watching an array of birds. Check their website for days and times for these tours.

         This region is for the birds, literally. Besides Quinta Mazatlan there are 85 other venues, either private, city or state parks, that cater to millions of migratory or vagrant birds and butterflies that grace the Rio Grande Valley, from South Padre Island/Boca Chica in the east to Zapata Texas, 200 miles to the west.

Interior Hallway

         The Rio Grande Valley is a major bird migration corridor thanks to the convergence of two major flyways creating one of the most spectacular environments for birds on earth. Here you can find many species to cross off your checklist, including the Green Jay, the Buff-bellied Hummingbird, the Great Kiskadee and the Altamira Oriole.

         To go along with the Audubon activities there are many other exciting attractions that will give you a well-rounded adventure. There are miles and miles of nature trails to hike and places to campout or bring your RV for the weekend. There are hotels and restaurants galore, many museums, the last hand-drawn ferry that crosses the Rio Grande, and even a Little Graceland, something for everyone.

Little did Jason Chilton Matthews know that he was giving us all such a grand gift.

Green Jay


Quinta Mazatlan World Birding Center

600 Sunset Drive

McAllen, TX 78503

956) 681-3370



Adults $3 

Seniors & Children 12 and under $2

Entrance to Quinta Mazatlan
Magical Pathways



   © Harry Perez 2012