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American Mercury Editor’s Home Now a Public Monument

Published by on April 21, 2010

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JASON CHILTON MATTHEWS was an American renaissance man — composing poetry and music, fighting against Communism and for the self-determination of indigenous peoples — and he was the editor of The American Mercury, working there during the turbulent 1950s and 1960s. His home in McAllen, Texas — which he named Quinta Mazatlan, and from which he edited the Mercury — is now a public monument:

A wildlife oasis in the otherwise urban city, Quinta Mazatlan is the pride of McAllen’s nature loving community. The 15 acres of natural environment is McAllen’s wing of the World Birding Center – and it is also so much more. The site hosts a Spanish-colonial manion built in the 1930s by composer, writer and adventurer Jason Chilton Matthews. The home’s ceiling beams are made from Lebanese cedar — a gift to Matthews from the King of Lebanon to thank him for fighting alongside Lawrence of Arabia during Lebanon’s War of Independence.

Composer, writer, and adventurer, Jason 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 Pennsylvania wife from the prominent Jamieson family, 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, which sits 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 back side 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 hideaway. 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 — which, he believed, could have health-impacting side effects — from penetrating the building.

An extraordinary feature of the main house is the extraordinary carving on the front doors. Mr. Matthews commissioned Peter Mansbendel, a famous Swiss wood carver, to recreate the stately front doors of the Spanish Governor’s Palace in San Antonio. 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. It is said that 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 American Mercury magazine from their home at Quinta Mazatlan during the 1950s and 60s. 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, and has now been revived as an online magazine by a group containing some who worked with the original Mercury staff.

Jason and Marcia Matthews, who had begun their foray into publishing quite wealthy, found themselves and the Mercury in conflict with Zionist periodical distributors and advertising agencies, who refused to carry the magazine or advertise in it, driving down its circulation and revenue. The Matthews family spent nearly their entire fortune keeping the Mercury alive and died with only Quinta Mazatlan left to their name.

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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