Chronological History of Our ChurchNote: Click on any image for a larger view
1919 is officially designated as the year of the founding of our community; however, a look through various sources indicates that Greeks immigrated to New Haven as early as 1895, during the period of the greatest exodus to the United States. The immigrants from Greece, an impoverished country devoid of opportunity or industry, were inspired by the hope of a better life in America or by the desire to "make their fortune and return home." Many who immigrated from Turkey did so to avoid being drafted into the Turkish army. Mr. Christos Koutsoheris, who arrived in 1895, was probably the first to settle in New Haven. Other early settlers were:
It is also known that Kostas Pandajis, Gregory and Charles Kypriotelis, Christos Psychogios, Louis Atnes, Peter Barbatos, Peter Kostopoulos, John Kiotsalides, Polities Misechronis and Peter,Demetrious, Gus and John Comninos resided in New Haven in 1908. By 1915 the following individuals were also settled here: Alexis Prates, Pericles Kouloufakos, Gabriel Zahariades, Frank Gankas, Therapon Skitgis, Nicholas Feslis, Christ Vanoukiotis, William Farmakis, Thomas Kiotsalides, Verrios Tsarookas, Harris Poulos, Christos Dedopoulos, Potherios Prodromidis, Kostas Petrakis, James and Milton Parakilas, Peter Porferous, Stavros Anastasion, Emanual Cappas, Nicholas and James Baxavanes, William Comaitis, Nicholas Delegeorges, George Matsagas, James, Peter and Nicholas Carson and Peter and John Terzakis.
Records on file with the city of New Haven verify the fact that Peter Proestakes obtained his citizenship in 1903 after fulfilling the four-year Connecticut residency requirement. Others listed are: Joseph Constantine (1907); Thomas J. Bouzoucos (1908); Constantine Constantine, Christos Koutsoheris (1910); George and Arthur Bouzoucos (1912); Socrates Frances (1915); Damianos Anastasion, Demostanes Yarcorimus (1916); James Proestakes, Constantine Theofanides (1917); George Ketchem and Peter Porferous (1918).
The first Greek woman to reside in New Haven was probably Mrs. Christos Koutsoheris, who came here in 1906 as a bride. The first child of Greek descent was George C. Koutsoheris, who was born April 15, 1907.
Our early settlers made their living in various ways and the pushcart was the vehicle many used to earn their first American dollar. In 1903, Thomas and Andrew Bouzoucos, James Proestakes and Nicholas Gianoukakis, who settled in New Haven because of the advantages of its location midpoint between New York and Boston, where selling bananas from pushcarts. The newcomers found these Greek-owned businesses already established:
From the very outset of their lives in America our early settlers displayed an ability to engage in business and commerce with energy and resourcefulness. Most arrived with little capital and no experience in the restaurant, confectionery, shoeshine, or any type business in which they were to become so conspicuous. Among the early businesses established in New Haven were:
Most of our early settlers were young males who lived in crowded rooms either above or in their businesses or in boarding houses. Their main purpose was to live as economically as possible in order to establish their businesses, send money to their families to pay their father's debts or sister's dowries, or to enable their wives or fiancés to join them in America. Their social life was very limited, and in the early 1900's the Pan-Hellenic Union provided education and assistance to the newcomers and also served as a binding force to unite the Greek youths in their adopted land. The Pan-Hellenic officers were the first elected officials of our community and exerted the first efforts to arrange for occasional visits from a priest to hold services and celebrate sacraments. Officers were not elected each year, but the continuity of office was maintained. The first president was Gregory Kypriotelis and in the next decade Costas Pandajis, Louis Atnes, Emanuel Cocolas and Frank Pandajis all held this position.
As the composition of our community changed from a colony of single men to a settlement of young families, the spiritual needs of the community increased and priests from other cities occasionally came to New Haven to tend these needs. During the period 1914-1918, Thomas J. Bouzoucos served as President of the Community. Mr. Bouzoucos feared that the Greeks were growing away from their ethnic and religious ties and so he attempted to locate a church in which to hold services regularly. He was able to arrange for the use of the Ukrainian Church from 1914-1916, and later obtained permission to use the parish house of Christ Episcopal Church on Broadway. On occasions when the parish house was not available, services were held at numerous locations including the City Mission, the Ukrainian Church Neuman's Dancing Hall, York Street Hall, the Armenian Church (near Congress Avenue), Rose Street Hall, the Lithuanian Church Hall, and a hall on Oak Street. It was during this period, also, that the Bermata Society was formed (1917).
Father Thomas Daniels, the first priest to come to New Haven on a fairly regular basis, tended our congregation from 1916-19. He also served other Connecticut. Father Daniel's name is mentioned in the first correspondence sent by a representative of our community to the Archdiocese on October 29, 1918. This letter, the oldest on file with the Archdiocese, is signed by Constantine Antipas of 39 Temple Street, New Haven.
Beginning in 1918, efforts were made to enroll members in order to establish a formal community. In 1919 a number of parishioners, including Mrs. Annetta Ioakim and Mr. and Mrs. Savas Anastasion, assembled in the Odd Fellows Hall, on Elm and Broadway to participate in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Prior to this time, our community had been serviced by numerous priests.
Assistant Psalti were Thomas J. Bouzoucos, Harry Cocolas and Jordan Theodos. Most of those interviewed recalled celebrating Easter in 1922 and 1923 in this church. At this time (1923) there developed a concerted effort to raise funds to purchase a building, which could be converted for use as a church. In 1924 the Second Advent Christian Church at 109 Beers Street was acquired for the sum of $8,000. The structure, originally a barn, needed extensive repairs, and many parishioners, including Michael Bilides and Savas Anastasion, assisted carpenter Peter Feslis. The congregation did not, however, wait until the church was completed, but almost immediately began to hold weekly services there. Throughout the years that the Beers Street church was in use numerous parishioners donated items to furnish it.
Reverend P. Manoliades was assigned to our parish May 24, 1924. He remained here until September 6, 1924 when he was replaced by Reverend John Aslanides. Reverend Aslanides was the first priest to keep accurate records and the first sacrament recorded in the church registry book is the wedding of Miss Amelia Daniel to Mr. Kostas Klarides on September 7, 1924. The first recorded baptisms were those of George Anastasion and Marianthe Psathas. George's nouno was Christos Koutsoheris and Marianthe's nouno was Savas Anastasion. Both baptisms were performed October 5, 1924. Father Aslanides, who served our community until 1929, was one of the twenty-six Charter Members of the local chapter of Ahepa, which was established in 1926.
Our spiritual leader from August 1, 1929 to August 15, 1937 was the Reverend Evangelos Triantafilides. The entire Triantafilides family actively served our community and in 1930 the first Sunday School was organized by Presvytera Triantafilides. The Triantafilides girls, Mary and Lillian, were members of our first choir and their brother Nicholas was an Altar Boy. Father Triantafilides is fondly remembered as the priest who reorganized the structure of the church and "brought order to it". During the period of time that Father Triantafilides served our community the following events took place: 1929 - formation of Euripedes Chapter #29, G.A. P.A. 1931 - Clergy-laity Conference in New York attended by Father Triantafilides and John Pappas; and participation by Father Triantafilides in a Thanksgiving Service sponsored by the Council of Churches and held in Woolsey Hall. Some of the Parish Council Presidents with whom Father Triantafilides served were: Paul Psathas, 1929; James Carson, 1930; George Gailey, 1931; James Proestakes, 1932; John Mihos, 1933; John Rodolakis, 1934. A play, written by Reverend Triantafilides was presented at the Hejaz Grotto in 1936 when Stelios Theodos was Parish Council President. This play, which starred local talent, raised over $1,000 through ticket sales and the printing of an Ad Book.
On August 15, 1937 Reverend Triantahlides left our community and was replaced by Reverend John Andreadis who guided our community from October 9, 1937 to May 22, 1938. In the next few months our community was serviced by numerous priests including Reverend Damianos Nicolaou who performed three sacraments on September 4, 1938 and Reverend George Nicolaides who was here from November 15, 1938 to July 20, 1939.
On April 18, 1939 a meeting was held in the basement of the Beers Street Church to discuss the fact that facilities for Greek language classes would no longer be available from the city of New Haven. It was decided to appoint a Building committee to locate a new and larger church. Those named to the Committee were Chairman - Savas Anastasion, Vice-chairman - John Pappas, Secretary - Milton Psathas, Treasurer - George Boulas, Advisors - Alexander Eftimes, Christos Koutsoheris, John Jinetopulos (Basel), Seraphim Pappas, George Galanos (Galley), Peter Daniel, Theodore Pappas, Demetrios Christodoulo, Stelios Theodos and Constantine Loukides. The Committee considered and then rejected the suggestion that we purchase the Orchard Street School and convert it to meet our needs. Numerous meetings later, through the office of Mr. Hewlett (realtor) property was located at 56 Dwight Street and purchased for $10,000. The transaction was completed on November 21, 1939 in the offices of the law firm of Clark, Hall and Peck. Christos Koutsoheris contributed all of the supplies and labor necessary to completely redecorate the property, which is still used as our Parish House. It was decided that a drive would be conducted to solicit donations but that construction would not begin until a minimum of $25,000 was raised. Numerous people were involved in the fund raising and in a very short while Chairman Savas Anastasion reported that $12,000 had been pledged to the fund. By November 21, 1939 pledges in the amount of $5,843.16 had already been collected.
On November 27, 1939 a Certificate of Organization was issued to Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church by the State of Connecticut. This certificate was signed by Alexander Eftimes, Parish Council President; Harry Lazar, Clerk; and George Boulas, Treasurer.
Our Protestant neighbors came to our aid and allowed us the use of Christ Church on Broadway and later the use of St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Elm Street. While services were being conducted at Saint Thomas Church (April 12, 1940-February 22, 1942) the Building Committee continued to investigate the purchase of numerous buildings and at one time even attempted to purchase the Episcopal Church we were using. Meanwhile, fund raising efforts continued and a letter dated April 12 was distributed to the community announcing a "Benefit Show and Ad Book" scheduled for May 5, 1940.
During this transition period Reverend Papachristou continued to serve on the building and fund-raising committee and, together with the committee, met with Archbishop Athenagoras and Bishop Kavadas to discuss the building of a new church. Bishop Kavadas was very influential in the design of the Dwight Street Church.
A second piece of property was purchased on June 1, 1940. This property, adjacent to the first piece, is listed as 48 Dwight Street and when purchased had a small house standing upon it. Also in June of that year, the committee awarded a contract to demolish this structure. In June of 1941, The Jack A Halprin Company, Inc., submitted a bid $71,522 for the construction of our new church. Architect Charles Abramowitz was retained to draw plans and specifications for the church, and in November of 1941 the following signed a building contract agreement with the Halprin Company: Savas Annstasion, President; John Pappas, Vice president; Milton Psathas, Secretary. December 7, 1941 is a day that will live in the memory of most Americans for many years to come. For our parishioners this day has a double significance. It is the day that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the day of the cornerstone laying of the second Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in New Haven in an impressive ceremony conducted by Archbishop Athenagoras, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in North and South America, and Father Papachristou. The privilege of placing the cornerstone was awarded to Mrs. Peter Daniel who bid $7,000 for this honor. In the cornerstone was placed the names of the Building Committee, donors, church officers and other pertinent information. Between the time of the cornerstone-laying and the consecration in 1943, our community was deeply involved in the Greek War Relief Effort; the AHEPA War Bond Drive; and numerous War Relief, Independence Day, and Memorial Day Parades.
On September 20, 1943, when the church was completed, it was decided to dismiss the Building Committee with the grateful thanks of the community and to reward each member with a certificate of recognition. Archbishop Athenagoras officiated at the consecration services for our new church. At the ceremony which was held on October 10, 1943 the Archbishop was assisted by Reverend Papachristou and numerous other clergymen. The combined choirs of the Greek Orthodox Seminary in Pomfret, Connecticut and the Saint Barbara Choir chanted the responses. According to a newspaper clipping from the Journal-Courier dated Monday, October 11, 1943 "The cornerstone of the $76,000 church was laid December 7, 1941, and the structure was completed recently. A collection of $18,000 was taken after the ceremony yesterday, and this, together with the original sum, paid for the church in full".
Father Papachristou is well remembered as a very industrious priest who personally collected much of the money raised for the building of the Church. While in New Haven he arranged for the first signing of a proclamation of Greek Independence Day and for the Greek flag to be flown from the City Hall. During his years of service to our community Reverend Papachristou was assisted by Psalti W. Basel; L. Pappas, 1944 and 1946; T. Thomas, 1944-46. After Reverend Papachristou left New Haven we were again serviced by numerous priests: Reverend P. Stamoll performed one sacrament on January 20, 1946, and in February and March 1946 our priest was Reverend Constantine Mihos. Reverend Theodore Dymek served our congregation from April 7, 1946 until September 10 of that year when he was replaced by Father James Christon.
Reverend James Christon was a dynamic leader particularly devoted to the youth, and while he served our community all of the youth groups experienced an extremely active time. Under his guidance the first G.A.Y.O. was formed; the 1950 Church Dinner was distinguished by the presence of Bishop E. Tsoukalos; a summer day camp was begun; a series of Friday night movies was presented; a concert featuring Vaughn Monroe was sponsored; Boy and Girl Scout"* troops were organized; the Sunday School was re-organized, and the children also enjoyed their first Easter Egg Hunt and first annual excursion; $1,000 was raised for audio-visual aids; monthly Family Nights were held; membership dues were raised from $12 to $15 plus the monodollarion; Miss Sophia Chaltas was employed as the first full-time, paid church secretary at a weekly salary of fifteen dollars; our community participated in the first city census sponsored by the Council of Churches. Another practice begun by Father James was that of leaving the casket closed at the cemetery during funerals. Father James was the first priest to deliver sermons in English because he felt that "all are entitled to hear and understand the word of God" (there were about 50-60 families in the community, who, although Greek Orthodox, understood their native tongue, Turkish, and not Greek, most, however, understood English); and a policy was established whereby the church was open for fifteen minutes each morning to accommodate the approximately 50 students who would stop at the church on their way to school. Father Christon was also very involved outside of the Greek community and was often called upon to lecture to various groups. He was the subject of a newspaper feature in 1947 and at a later date a two-page feature depicting the celebration of Easter was also printed.
Father James left our community on January 7, 1951 the very day that Father George H. Kerames was ordained a deacon. Father Kerames was ordained a priest one-week later and assumed leadership of our community on January 28, 1951. Father Kerames has served our community for 30 years and during this time numerous significant events took place:
A third piece of property was purchased by out community in the Dwight Street area on December 29, 1952 from the C. W. Blakeslee Company for $2,514, and was used as a parking lot. This property was donated by Mr. Christos Koutsoheris, who contributed $500 a month to the Church until both lots were paid. A plaque affixed to the Church acknowledges this donation. A fourth parcel of land was acquired and authorized at a General Assembly meeting on February 3, 1959, when Milton Psathas was president. The property was purchased from Anna F. McCoy on February 18, 1959 for the sum of $6,800. The General Assembly called May 10,1960 authorized the purchase of property at 66 Dwight Street at a maximum cost of $50,000. The property was acquired at a final price of $50,763.88 and the $30,000 mortgage necessary for its purchase was signed by Milton Psathas, Joseph St. John and Peter Kardaras.
The efforts and benevolent aid of the community continued to reach
fruition in the steady development and decoration of the church
property. Outdoor bulletin board listing services were provided
by George Constantinides in 1951, while the bishop’s throne,
perched regally on the solea, was donated by Milton Psathas during
the same year. Shortly before Christmas, 1951, the new stained glass
windows were unveiled, scattering shimmering prisms of light across
the narthex as if in anticipation of the Nativity celebration. Soon
after, a matching glass altar window was erected on behalf of the
generosity of Christos Koutsoheris. In addition to individual donations,
the community as a whole pledged $11,200 so as to pay the balance
of the Church General Fund. It was at this time that Milton Psathas,
Parish Council President, along with George Margoles, C.P. Verinis,
S. Pappas, and Christos Bungeely, decided to form the “Building
and Investment Fund Committee” so as to effectively guide
the future development of the church.
During this time, the community flourished in both its number and its involvement. Junior G.O.Y.A. was established in 1954, while a report dated from 1957 indicates that church membership had grown from 331 to 430 in only four years. The year 1960 towed in its wake a slew of communal activities, welcoming the revival of Vacation Bible School, the institution of a nursery school, and the establishment of the P.T.O. By 1963, an excess of 234 students were enrolled in the Sunday School Program, studying a newly revised Greek Orthodox curriculum. Home to such a large youth community, Saint Barbara Church hosted the G.O.Y.A. District Convention in 1964. Tapping the talents of these children, a junior choir was formed in 1964, while the basketball team was established in 1968.
The year 1969 marked the fiftieth anniversary of our community. After half a century of growth, the Saint Barbara Church was home to over 434 member families, and had maintained a formal religious program, Greek language classes, and numerous other organizations vital to the life of an active community. No longer was the parish comprised simply of newly-acquainted neighbors, disjointed immigrants striving to glean a sense of belonging through their similar ethnicity and religious conviction. Over the past fifty years, the faithful grew into strong, interdependent community of three generations.
It was at this pivotal time that Parish Council President George Guiliotis appointed a new Building Committee, whose goal would be to acquire new property for the church. Preparations to move the community of Saint Barbara Church from New Haven to Orange began, and on February 25, 1977, the purchase of property on Racebrook Road was finalized for a total cost of $122,229.80. Julian Jastremsky A.I.A. Architect was commissioned by the Building Committee as a consultant for determining the physical design of the buildings necessary for the future of the community. This new property was blessed on May 20, 1979.
Anticipating the construction of a new church edifice, the Parish Council, under the leadership of President Harry Pappas, established the Odyssey Festival in 1981 as an annual community event and a crucial fund-raising activity. First held at Lighthouse Park in New Haven, Odyssey has provided a pastiche of ethnic, cultural, and faith-related aspects of the Greek community to the many thousands of guests who throng through the festival grounds. Following the years of festivities at Lighthouse Park, Odyssey was held at Yale Field in 1986, before finally finding its permanent home on the grounds of the Racebrook property every Labor Day Weekend.
After serving our community for thirty years, Father George retired in 1982, due to illness. A retirement dinner was held in his honor on May 16. Father Mark B. Arey served as pastor for the next two years. With developments for the new church on the way, Father Mark asked Father Kileen of Holy Infant Roman Catholic Church, the parish neighboring the Racebrook property, for permission to use their facilities while our community made the move from New Haven. Father Kileen formally approved our use of the Holy Infant facilities on February 21, 1983. Just as Saint Barbara Church had, a few years earlier, made her facilities available to the Ukranian Orthodox Community of New Haven for four months during the construction of their church, our Christian neighbors wholeheartedly offered their aid, greatly easing our move. Following the resignation of Father Mark in 1983, Father William S. Kehayes became our new priest.
On Friday, September 14, the day of the celebration of the Exaltation of the Cross, the Groundbreaking Ceremony was held at the Racebrook property. Archbishop Iakovos of North and South America officiated along with Father Bill, and the ceremony was attended by all the clergy from across Connecticut and New York. Soon after the ground was broken, Holy Infant Church made their classrooms available for our Greek School classes. Beginning March 16, 1985, a Fund Drive was created to support the Building Fund, and the construction of the new Church. Members were asked to pledge over a period of five years, with an ultimate goal of $1,000,000. Kapetan Contractors were chosen for the construction of the Church at an approximate cost of $2,500,000. At a special Parish Council meeting held at Lighthouse Park in New Haven, the Building Committee members, along with the members of the Consecration, Peter Kapetan, and architect Julian Jastremsky gathered for the signing of the contract. The contract was signed by Father Bill, Parish Council President Evangelos Hadjimichael, and Peter Kapetan, as well as by the many parishioners who served as witnesses. Soon afterwards, in December 1985, the Dwight Street property was sold for $386,417 to Ebenezer Chapel of New Haven.
Under the supervision of the Building Committee headed by Alex Alexiades and George Anastasion, and of the Parish Council, construction started soon thereafter. According to reports published by the building committee, 268 members had pledged $1,270,000 for the development of the new church, and a total of $725,017 had already been received before its doors even opened.
On September 7, 1986, a special ceremony was held in which the contents from the cornerstone of the Dwight Street Church were removed. After being read and described, these contents were then deposited into the cornerstone of the new church. Festivities held in celebration of the cornerstone began with a dance on Friday, September 12. Vesper services, followed by a light supper, were held on Saturday evening, while the Cornerstone Ceremony was commemorated on Sunday morning. The deconsencration of the edifice on Dwight Street, marking the end of its service as an Orthodox church, was held on Sunday, December 28, 1986. Until the new church was ready for occupancy, liturgies and other church services were celebrated in those facilities so graciously provided by the neighboring community of Holy Infant Church.
A special Parish Council meeting was held on April 9, 1986, to
commission Serio Tonelli to design and execute the dome windows
in the new church. Soon after, Byzantine Iconographer Nicholas Brisnovalis
was chosen to create the artwork adorning the walls of the new church,
and Nadya Penoff was later commissioned to design all the leaded,
etched windows whose delicately beveled purple and golden glass
fill now fill the church with glittering shards of light.
The community of Saint Barbara Church celebrated its 75th Anniversary
in 1994 after three quarters of a century, having met for worship
over the years in three different church edifices, the congregation
had not only endured, but grown stronger. Both the Odyssey and the
annual Dinner Dance stressed the theme of this special diamond anniversary,
while a Commemorative Volume was published as a pictorial document
of both the families of Saint Barbara, and the events of this year.
Perhaps the most significant form of commemoration, was the Consecration
of the new church on October 9, 1994. His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos
officiated during the ceremony, and a special dinner followed the
Rev. Father Peter J. Orfanakos, Parish Priest
Phone: (203) 795-1347 | E-mail: | 480 Racebrook Road - Orange, Connecticut 06477
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