Built in 1902, St. Matthew’s is probably the second-oldest school building in the city, after St. Joseph’s Academy/Christ’s Household of Faith (1863). The school itself, originally housed in the first St. Matthew’s Church (long gone), began in 1892. This was one of the six German “national parishes” in St. Paul, organized on ethnic lines. Parts of the surrounding neighborhood were in that era heavily German. Census records from 1900, for example, show some blocks populated up to one-third by people claiming one or more grandparents from Germany. And of course in the city as a whole (state too) Germans were by far the most numerous ethnic group.
By conducting services and school in German, St. Matthew’s helped immigrant families preserve language and culture. German was the language of church and school until 1917, when feelings incited by World War I suppressed many German names, institutions, and practices in St. Paul and around the state. St. Matthew’s was a grade school until 1929, when the second building (complete with bowling alley) and high school were added. Enrollment hit 1000 in 1952 and 1200 in 1958. It is now, much smaller, a pre-K through 8th grade school.