On May 2, 1908, Bishop Charles E. McDonnell of the Diocese of Brooklyn, desiring to establish a new Roman Catholic parish for the faithful in the Evergreen and Ridgewood sections of Long Island, appointed Reverend Nicholas M. Wagner as the first Pastor of St. Matthias R.C. Church. Holy Mass was offered within the parish boundaries for the first time on Sunday, August 30, 1908 at a nearby restaurant on the grounds then known as Ridgewood Park, which would today be the vicinity of Myrtle and Seneca Avenue, The very next week Father Wagner negotiated the purchase of twenty lots on Elm Avenue (now Catalpa Avenue) from the Meyerose Estate. Ground was broken on the new property the following March 19 for a building that was to house the first Church and School of St. Matthias. The combination building was subsequently developed into what is now St. Matthias School.
At the conclusion of World War I, in the Spring of 1918, ground was broken for a new church building and the first phase, a basement church, was completed in August of 1919. The next few years were spent raising funds for the construction of the current superstructure, and the cornerstone of the current St. Matthias Church building was laid on October 5, 1924.
The intent was to build a church that would accommodate the spiritual needs of the growing parish, and like many churches throughout history, the building was designed to teach the faith through visual story-telling using murals, shrines and stained glass windows to depict various Catholic themes and imagery. Not only educational, it was also intended to offer historic value to future generations. The resulting structure, an Italian Renaissance Revival masterpiece, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012, and is an important part of the Ridgewood South Historic District of New York City.
Our Church building is a structure full of history to be discovered. In an effort to help you discover or re-discover a time when church buildings were built to tell future generations about their history. Every month we will publish a new photo and ask that you search for it the next time you visit our parish. To learn more click on the link below to a self-guided tour booklet.