“St. Matthew’s” began in 1907 as an offshoot of St. John’s Lutheran Church. (The name “St. Matthew Lutheran Church” did not become official until 1958). The split with St. John’s was not without controversy, but in 1908, land was purchased on the corner of 18th and White Street and building began. In 1909, the cornerstone was laid and in 1910, dedication of the new structure was recorded beginning a new ministry in downtown Dubuque.
The years 1911 and into the 1920’s showed years of growth for the church. A pulpit canopy was added in 1912 and the organ in 1914, and in 1915 a gift of a new bell was received from the Ladies Aid. In 1919, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the ordination of Pastor Luz, the present altar was purchased.
Ladies Aid continued to be a strong and stable presence in their dedication to the church during the Depression years and in spite of financial difficulties, continued to contribute in the way of beautification to the structure. Stained glass windows were added and the church basement was redecorated.,
Watch the Story of St. Matthew Lutheran Church
1930 – 1960
The 1930’s saw spiritual growth and expansion. But the church, along with the nation, underwent serious years of economic hardship during the Great Depression. German services were dropped from the schedule in response to growing tensions overseas. Despite economic concerns, the congregation went about the work of the Lord and in 1939, all church property had been paid in full.
The 1940’s brought the war home for St. Matthew as many of our friends were called to service. The 40’s and 50’s also brought an emphasis on sports to the congregation. Softball, bowling, darts and other activities were played in leagues formed with other churches. Fellowship and lasting friendships were formed.
During this time, we moved forward with plans for repairs on the boiler and additional windows. A sound system was added as a gift of the Men’s Brotherhood. The old parsonage on Montrose was sold and a new one was purchased on Nevada Street. The Golden Jubilee in 1957 brought a whole year of celebration with special dinners and a commemorative booklet. Guest speakers were welcomed and our mission to God was renewed.
The 60’s were years of development and expansion for St. Matthew. The congregation had outgrown its facilities and thoughts turned to the future as the property to the south was purchased in 1966. Sunday School attendance had grown considerably and additional office and classroom space was needed. So groundbreaking ceremonies were again held at St. Matthew for the construction of an educational unit.
The 1970’s again showed the need for repairs and improvements to the facility. The last intensive remodeling of the interior of the church was in the 50’s and it was decided that a complete make-over was in order in anticipation of the 75th Anniversary in 1982. Old pews were replaced, giving us a center aisle. Lighting and carpeting were installed and pew cushions were donated making for a more comfortable service. A complete paint job, along with wallpaper, competed the work at that time but scaffolding was up for much of 1977-1979.
The exterior of the building needed work, too. Plexiglass was installed to the outside of the stained-glass windows for insulation value as well as protection. Additional insulation was added to both the church proper and the education unit, along with a new roof and a new carillon was donated to add beauty, and music to our structure. Landscaping had also been done to the front of both buildings, with the planting of trees and flowers.
1980 – 2000
Food has always been a part of the Lutheran tradition from pancake breakfasts to chili suppers, funeral dinners and ice cream socials. In the late 1980’s it was decided that the old kitchen needed to be updated. The kitchen was completely gutted, old windows boarded up, appliances replaced and new ones added. It was also determined at that time that additional electrical service was needed in this area. Again, a leap of faith was taken when it was decided that a reworking of the electrical system would be in order to provide us with the capacity of air conditioning in the future. Air conditioning was installed in 1991.
2000 – Current
As we were anticipating our Centennial Celebration, painting of the church took place in 2006. We “kicked-off” our yearlong Centennial Celebration by having a float in the Memorial Day Parade, May 28, 2007. Throughout the year we had a new pictorial directory made up for our members, a video was made “The Story of St. Matthew” and several other events took place. On October 28, 2007 our Centennial Celebration took place at St. Matthew with a catered dinner, open house, and presentation of the video “The Story of St. Matthew”.