Matamoros’ Midcentury Legacy

Year Built – 1950, 1951, 1956
Architects -Enrique León de la Barra, Augustín Reyes Escobar, Sergio Paredes Rangel, Ignacio López Bancalari, Frank Lloyd Wright
Text and Photos – Stephen Fox
Across the border from Brownsville, Texas, is Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico; Brownsville’s sister city just a short walk across the “Puerta Mexico” bridge. Stephen Fox wrote about the city’s midcentury modern residences during a recent lecture.

Casa Manuel Cavazos Gutiérrez and Casa en Calle 8a y Bustamante, Matamoros, c. 1950, Arq. Enrique León de la Barra

Architects moved to Matamoros for the first time since the 1860s. Enrique León de la Barra of Ciudad Victoria was one of the newcomers. He designed neo-colonial chalets for Matamoros’s cotton elite in the late 1940s and early ‘50s.

Casa Amador Garza González, Colonial Jardín, Matamoros, 1950, Arq. Augustín Reyes Escobar

The most prolific of the newly arrived architects was Augustín Reyes Escobar, who was from Parral, Chihuahua. Reyes designed one of the largest houses in Matamoros for the cotton merchant Amador Garza González in 1950. It was built in the city’s new elite neighborhood, Colonia Jardín, developed in 1945 along the road leading from the center of Matamoros to the Gateway International Bridge. In 1951 Time magazine reported that “Along the flowered streets of Matamoros’ El Jardín district, there are so many new and luxurious houses that one awed American mumbled: ‘This is just what the South must have looked like before the Civil War.’”

Casa Dr. Juvenal Rendón Sáenz, Colonial Jardín, 1956, Arq. Sergio Paredes Rangel

Another young architect, Sergio Paredes Rangel, a graduate of the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, was a Matamorense (although he was born in Brownsville) and the nephew of the Brownsville journalist-turned-folklorist, Américo Paredes. Sergio Paredes’s house for Dr. Juvenal Rendón Sáenz of 1956 in Colonia Jardín displays Paredes’s mature understanding of the Usonian architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. As pronounced as Wright’s influence is, however, the Casa Rendón represents a distinctively Mexican interpretation. It occupies a lot much smaller than one in a comparable neighborhood in Brownsville, for instance, and is of reinforced concrete frame construction, the universal type of construction for buildings, including houses, in the formal economy sector of mid-century Mexico.

Casa Gastón Treviño García, Matamoros, Arq. Ignacio López Bancalari

The most spectacular house from Matamoros’s cotton boom era was designed by a young Mexico City-based architect, Ignacio López Bancalari, on Avenida Alvaro Obregón in Colonia Jardín. López Bancalari was part of the team of architects who designed the Ciudad Universitaria of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, collaborating with Enrique Molinar and Félix Nuncio on the Olympic swimming pool and dressing rooms of 1952.

Douglas Grant House, Cedar Rapids IA, 1951, Frank Lloyd Wright

The oversailing fascias of López Bancalari’s Casa Treviño García and its corner window bay evoke a specific house by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Grant House in Cedar Rapids, Iowa of 1950, which Wright designed for clients who, coincidentally, would spend their winters in McAllen in the 1970s and ‘80s. Douglas Grant House is the featured photograph for this article located at the very top.