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Exploring the History of St. Matthews Episcopal Chapel at the Navy Yard

Take a closer look at St. Matthews Episcopal Chapel at the Navy Yard in 1921 and today. Learn more about the history of the area around Nationals Park and the stories of its former residents.
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Another map! Sweet. I think GoDCer David will dig this. Most of you will dig this because these old maps are amazing.

This time, we’re checking out the Navy Yard circa 1921. This is the area around the current Nationals Park.

Studying the 1921 map closely, I noticed, as I’m sure you did, that there was a church on the southeast corner of Half and M streets. St. Matthews Chapel.

That’s interesting. Just a block away from the current entrance to the park, there once stood the House of the Lord. I think it’s safe to say that our stadium and team are therefore blessed.

St. Matthew's Episcopal Chapel at Half and M streets southeast - 1921
St. Matthew’s Episcopal Chapel at Half and M streets southeast – 1921

Now I want to know more about the chapel, and if you’re a hardcore GoDCer, you probably have that same curiosity. Let’s dig a little deeper for a mini “If Walls Could Talk.”

I wish we could find a photo of the church, but alas, the Internet giveth naught. There are a few stories that we can share. There isn’t an abundance of information about the church in the newspaper archives, but we can track down the origin to its opening in 1892.

There was an article in the  Washington Post, highlighting some excitement at the chapel, courtesy of some lightning (thankfully nobody was hurt). This was published on August 14th, 1906.

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Chapel, at Half and M streets southeast, was struck by lightning at 5 o’clock yesterday morning, but was only slightly damaged.

The bolt was like a great ball of fire, and after striking the little church it whizzed over the residences of Frank Hazel, 73 M street, and John Bateman, 75 M street, and disappeared over the Bruen Mission, First and M streets.

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The slate roof of the church was slightly damaged. A crowd soon gathered, and the keys of the church were obtained from Miss Laura Ferguson, the janitor. Several daring spirits entered the edifice and were relieved to find that the interior of the building had sustained no damage.

The row of houses adjoining the church on Half street are of brick and a vacant lot adjoins it on the M street side. No damage was done to residence property.

Even in 1921, you can see that the two lots next to the chapel are vacant.

Sadly, this is all we could find on the chapel. But, if GoDCers are interested, maybe we can dig around for stories on the former residents of the area around the park. Or better yet, who lived in the homes now occupied by the field. That might make an interesting “They Were Neighbors” post, don’t you think?

Back to today … this is what you’ll see, walking down Half St. today. #NATITUDE

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Enjoy daily

Ghosts of DC stories.