WANTAGH, NY — A 115-year-old Wantagh church built by Native Americans and African Americans has been shielded from demolition and recognized as culturally significant after town officials granted it historic status.

Last week, the Town of Hempstead unanimously voted 6-0 to designate St. Matthias Episcopal Church on Jerusalem Avenue a historical landmark, citing its architectural and historical value.

After an AME Zion Church burned down, St. Matthias was built in 1904 to serve African American residents of “the Brush” community, comprised mostly of the black community, including freed slaves and their relatives.

Congregants were evicted in April 2018 after the Episcopal Diocese was awarded property rights. The diocese had wanted to sell the church property, and the ruling ended a 10-year legal battle over ownership.

Josh Soren, a commissioner of the Landmark Preservation Commission, told the Long Island Herald he has sought historical status for a long time and was pressed to do so given the recent ruling.

“Once I saw the for-sale sign, it became an emergency,” Soren told the Herald.

Preservation Long Island, not-for-profit group dedicated to protecting the region’s cultural heritage, said the church deserved landmark status being that it’s one of only a few surviving buildings connected to early efforts by the diocese to bring congregations of African Americans in Queens and Nassau Counties into the church.

“The building exhibits distinctive elements of turn-of-the-century Shingle-style architectural design and appears to be the second oldest surviving African American religious structure in Nassau County, following the 1833 Lakeville AME Zion Church located in Manhasset,” the organization wrote on its website.