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Saltwater Portrait

Jack Matthews reflects on a lifetime of building

North Shores resident built his house to play tennis
August 14, 2018

Jack Matthews has spent his entire life building things. Of all the things he's built, his greatest source of pride is his home in North Shores, near Rehoboth Beach.

In 1975, Matthews was a bachelor and avid tennis player. He frequently visited his friend, the late Danny Anderson, who had a townhouse in North Shores. When Anderson married, Matthews purchased an empty lot on Harbor Road from him. At the time, Mathews said, the purchase was less about building a home and more about tennis.

"I could never get on the tennis court. It was always full," he said. "I told Danny Anderson, 'I'll buy the lot and build a tennis court on it, so I can play tennis when I want to.'" Anderson said he wouldn't do that, so, Matthews recalls, "I said, 'OK, I'll build a house too.'"

Matthews built the home in 90 days. "Built it, furnished it and moved in it in 90 days," Matthews' wife of nearly 30 years, Mimi, adds.

The house does not show its age. It still has a modern look, with spiral staircases joining its three floors, an outdoor deck on the second floor and a carport in the driveway. "I literally copied it from the townhouses across the street," he said. "It's a similar plan to those townhouses. Made a single-family out of it."

Matthews said he built the house to be easy to maintain, using stainless steel and aluminum for the fixtures and fasteners, laminate plastic for the roof instead of shingles, and cypress siding, which Matthews said is very durable but has had to be fixed a few times due to that pesky enemy, the woodpecker.

The house was originally four bedrooms and four baths, but later, Matthews added a third-floor bedroom and bathroom. The Matthews are empty-nesters these days, but they have five children and six grandchildren, plus their dog, Bogart.

Matthews has a deep, baritone voice and a grandfatherly presence as he sits in his living room easy chair. When he gets up to head to the outdoor deck, which hangs above the driveway, Bogart dutifully follows him out.

Matthews got into the construction business following in the footsteps of his father. Originally from the small town of Gallipolis, Ohio, Matthews has spent most of his professional career in Washington, D.C., building homes and hotels. His most notable project is the Georgetown Suites hotels. In addition to North Shores, he owns homes in Washington, D.C., and Palm Beach, Fla.

His love for tennis started when he was 18. "I'm not very good, but I played a lot," he said. "It was an adult sport." The tennis court was a popular feature at the house, Mimi said. "For years, people would just stop by here and pick up a game," she said. "We have a big deck downstairs. He built off the deck, which was a great idea, with a little kitchen and a bathroom so they didn't have to come in the house. The court used to start at 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. It was like a big party all day long."

The backyard tennis court doesn't get much use anymore, Matthews admits. He doesn't play as much, his kids are not really into the game and he's taken up another sport: golf. The neighborhood has not changed much, although Mimi said they used to have a clear view of the ocean from their home, but new homes went up, obscuring the view.

Although he's at retirement age, Matthews is still managing his business and has no plans to slow down. He said he would like to pass the house on to his kids to keep it in the family. Matthews speaks of his home with a craftsman's pride.

"I've always been very happy with it. It's comfortable. It's easy to take care of. Well-located," Matthews said.