Mortimer J. Matthews, 74; former mayor of Pasadena

Times Staff Writer

Mortimer J. Matthews, an architect and former mayor of Pasadena, died Friday at the Rose Garden Convalescent Center in Pasadena after a long illness, his daughter, Dr. Lisa Matthews, said. He was 74.

An advocate for commercial development and revitalization of the city’s central district, Matthews also pushed for the completion of the 710 Freeway, which stalled in the mid-'70s and remains unfinished between Alhambra and Pasadena.

“He was part of a new generation of leadership that emerged in the 1970s,” current Mayor Bill Bogaard said Saturday. “They were younger and steeped in neighborhood preservation and started to advocate for assuring that even with change, Pasadena wouldn’t forget its history and would continue to offer an arts-and-culture way of life.”

As an architect, Matthews contributed to that heritage. In the mid-1960s he designed a house for his family in the hilly Linda Vista neighborhood on the west side of the Arroyo Seco. Clad in glass and redwood, the contemporary post-and-beam structure had an open floor plan and what David Gebhard and Robert Winter called an “arresting roof line” in their landmark book “Los Angeles: An Architectural Guide.”

“It was pretty cool,” Lisa Matthews said Saturday, “and sometimes frustrating.... He originally wanted all of our bedrooms to have no curtains. With three teenage girls, that changed pretty quick.”


Matthews became involved in Pasadena politics in the 1960s as a member of the Planning Commission and chairman of the city’s design committee. In 1971 he was elected to the Board of City Directors, precursor to the City Council, and the seven-member board selected him to be mayor from 1974 to 1976. He continued to serve as a city director until retiring from the board in 1979.

At that point, he became involved in historic preservation in Pasadena.

Mortimer Joseph Matthews was born April 11, 1933, in Glendale, Ohio, the great-grandson of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thomas Stanley Matthews and the son of Stanley Matthews, an architect, and his wife, Cecilia, a secretary in her husband’s office. Mortimer, known as Tim to friends and family, studied architecture at Princeton University and in 1954 went to work for acclaimed Los Angeles architect Welton Becket.

In the early ‘60s, Matthews joined colleagues James Pulliam and Bernard Zimmerman in Pulliam Zimmerman and Matthews, which evolved into Pulliam Matthews and Associates. With Pulliam leading the way, the firm designed office and retail buildings, apartments, libraries, banks and houses throughout the Los Angeles area.

Besides his daughter Lisa of Sharon, Mass., survivors include daughters Polly Evans of Porterville, Calif., and Amy Feins of Naples, Fla.; a stepson, Kevin Isola of New York and Los Angeles; his sister, Katherine Glover of Cincinnati; and nine grandchildren. His first marriage, to Lydia Simpson Matthews, ended in divorce. His second wife, Susan Quigley Matthews, died last year.

Matthews’ family is planning a memorial service for later this summer and suggests that donations be made to the Gamble House, 4 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena, CA 91103.