Our History

Saint Matthew School- Continuing our over 150 year history of traditional Christian and educational values while embracing new technologies and instructional styles to prepare our students for the future.

A one room building on Tenth Street and Lincoln Avenue that featured a pot-belly stove which the students stoked with coal and cow stables and pig sties as neighbors became the birth place of the Saint Matthew School tradition in 1869. Founded by Reverend John Ferren and one teacher, Saint Matthew School has grown to become a modern educational institution based in those traditional Christian and educational values.  

The early 1870s saw the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy to serve as teachers, a tradition that continued into the early 1990s. With a need for a larger school and a convent, the Elliot Building (site of the former Citizens Fire Company and current Bake Shop Bakes) was used in 1875. Moving again in 1876 to the Mathias House on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Eleventh Street, the first floor housed a community room, chapel, music hall, and living quarters for the Sisters while the second floor had two classrooms, a drawing room, and a guest bedroom. The third floor had only one classroom, which was used for the boys. The older boys were taught in the “wash house” behind the building. 

In 1881 the Cameron Avenue property “on the hill” was purchased, and by 1886 a new brick four-room school featuring the bell tower topped with a glimmering cross was ready for occupancy. Reverend Jeremiah Looney opened a high school in the upper rooms of the grade school at St. Matthew in 1919 which continued until the creation of the Catholic High School in Altoona in 1925. 

Saint Matthew School continued teaching student through the eighth grade until the mid-sixties at which time the class structure was set at preschool through grade six. With the 1886 building still serving as the hub, it was necessary to hold some classes in the basement of the church which also housed the kitchen. Students ate in the classroom and played at recess in the lot and on the hillside behind the school. The addition of Harkins Hall in 1980 provided a space that could accommodate performances, a cafeteria, and recreational events. As part of the major renovation of the church and school in 2007, all classrooms were updated with the latest safety features and new technology enabling interactive Apple screens to coexist with the original slate chalk boards. Additional classrooms, a library, and bathroom spaces were added as well as all ADA requirements making the school accessible to everyone.  

The current Saint Matthew School complex reflects its long standing commitment to providing a faith based educational opportunity to the families in our area. The historic brick exterior emblazed with “1886” embodies the strength and stability an education enriched with the teachings of Jesus Christ provides for our children.  The modern interior and embedded technology options allows each student to learn how to entwine his or her faith into the world of today. And space to run and play offers every child the chance to still be a kid and to fill the hill with the wonderful sounds of laughter.