Mansion of Mud, Transformed
by Keith Hackland (firstname.lastname@example.org)
published June 2015
Imagine digging clay out of the sticky Valley earth and fashioning
it into large bricks, laying these in the sun to dry, and then building
your dream home with them. Certainly the cost of materials would
be low, but what would it look like, and would it last? Could clay
mud like this withstand Valley wind, rain, and drought?
Yes, yes and yes. Not only was clay mud used in making some
early lean-to homes, it was used in constructing substantial buildings.
Salineno Village in Starr County has examples of such buildings.
So does McAllen. The 10,000 square foot mansion at the heart
of McAllen's show piece, Quinta Mazatlan birding center, was designed
and constructed of local, sun dried, clay bricks in the 1930s
under the direction of owners, Jason and Marcia Matthews.
Today this Spanish Revival adobe hacienda
is a museum quality show piece, set on a rise
in a beautiful tropical park, surrounded by lush
native woodland. The venue is so impressive
that it rents for thousands of dollars as a venue
for elegant weddings and photographic shoots.
The most exciting cultural birding center
in Texas, Quinta Mazatlan offers historical
and cultural sights, displays artistic endeavors,
the beauty of nature, and offers
really great birding in a tropical park, set
in the heart of the Valley's business center.
Hurricane Beulah, in 1967, tore the roof off
the house, but left its mud brick walls largely
intact. Frank and Marilyn Schultz purchased
the run down site in 1968, reportedly for about
$60,000. A businessman from Alamo, Texas,
Frank Schultz had the foresight to see what Quinta might become, and he did important
work to protect and restore the mansion.
When he auctioned it in the 1990s, the City of
McAllen was the highest bidder, and bought
the house and grounds for $2 million.
thought this purchase loco, a boon doggle, a
waste of tax payer money, but McAllen Parks
and Recreation Department, under its then director,
Larry Pressler, embraced the opportunity,
and with personal zeal Pressler launched its
revitalization. He personally created a unique
pathway through the site's native woodlands
for bird viewing. He supervised work, and
hired a top manager, Colleen Hook, who has
since dedicated her substantial skills to fully
restoring the mansion and expanding its impressive
surroundings. Great management and
dedication transformed the relic into relevance.
Today the center offers regular events relating
to birds and arts, is a busy McAllen tourism
destination, and has really great birds.
Valley specialty birds seen at Quinta are
tame, used to people with binoculars and
scopes staring at them and digiscoping them.
With its many feeders and water points, its
great nesting sites, and thick brush, birds thrive
here, and visitors are rewarded with excellent,
close views. These are sophisticated city birds.
I once caught a bird with a smart phone taking
selfies, for Quinta Mazatlan birding center on
In addition to very tall living palms growing
on site, dead palms have been added to offer
nesting sites for woodpeckers, starlings, owls,
parakeets, and parrots. Common Paraque are
often seen roosting in leaf litter, Olive Sparrow,
Long-billed Thrasher, Curve-billed Thrasher,
and even vagrant Brown Thrasher can be seen.
Green Jay, Plain Chachalaca, Black-bellied
Whistling-Duck, Altamira Oriole and Green
Jay are commonly seen, and Quinta is great for
migrant song birds
fall and spring, one
of its popular visitors
Warbler, and Blackand-white
frequent its woods.
An introductory video,
created for Quinta
Mazatlan by famous
Valley nature videographer Richard Moore,
plays in the visitor center and provides a great
introduction to its birds.