2. The first church building and early growth: 1899 to 1919
Shortly after Saint Matthias's initial gathering, Whittier's founders, the Pickering Land and Water Company, made the new church a generous gift of a lot in the center of the first block of south Washington Avenue. Steps were taken to build on this gift, and a church building was finished in May 1899. Saint Matthias Episcopal Church was dedicated on May 13 with great ceremony and a large number of congregants and townspeople in attendance. The total cost of the building was approximately $700.
The church grew steadily. The community erected a Parish Hall on the rear of the church lot, expanded social activities, formed a vested choir, and organized strong working chapters of the Brotherhood of Saint Andrew and the Daughters of the King. With all this expansion of church life, the mission achieved the status of an independent and self-supporting parish in 1912, attaining recognition from the Diocese just after the sanctuary's thirteenth anniversary, on May 22 that year.
Even after the construction of a new sanctuary down the street, the original wooden church and board-and-batten Parish Hall, a remarkable structure with a small hall, stage, kitchen, and adjoining living quarters, were beehives of activity utilized by the church and community alike for meetings and social events. Indeed, in the late 1930s, President Richard Nixon and First Lady Patricia Nixon first met while rehearsing a community play, The Dark Tower, at the Saint Matthias Parish Hall.