St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in National City was built in 1887, and is the oldest church in the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego still standing in its original location. The church has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1973.
The history of St. Matthew’s is intertwined with the history of National City. National City was founded in 1886 by Frank Kimball, who also helped to begin St. Matthew’s church. In 1881, Bishop William Kip gave canonical consent for the foundation of the parish of St. Matthew’s, National City; and in 1882 the parish of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Society was formed. In 1882 Frank Kimball and his brother deeded a piece of property to St. Matthew’s. This property was held in trust by Reverend Wilber and sold in 1886 for 20,000 (the money was used to construct the church). The site for the building was donated by Mr. Elizur Steele.
There is some disagreement as to who is the architect of the structure. Local tradition has always ascribed the building to Henry E. Cooper. However, Irene Phillips in National City states that “Crocker of Chula Vista, designed the church, inspired by some pictures of a small church in South England.” In addition, she quotes a newspaper description that cites Mr. Crocker as the designer. Much effort has been made over these many generations to maintain the building, the original redwood used in its construction, and the aesthetic of the original design.
The first service at St. Matthew’s was held at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday July 3, 1887. According to a review of the service, published on July 7, 1887, “the building was filled with people representing many different denomination, gathered together and united in the one common feeling that all are brethren who enroll themselves beneath the banner of the Cross.” As such, we continue to strive to be a place of welcome, not just for “the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement,” but for anyone seeking a space to find community & commune with God.
Our current community is made up of people whose roots are tied to many different countries, most predominantly the Philippines, Mexico, and the U.S.
St. Matthew's was built, and remains today, on the traditional territory and sacred homelands of the Kumeyaay people.