A Brief History of our Parish
In the late 1800's, the first immigrants from Greece arrived in Atlanta. As their numbers grew, they organized their own community and desired to establish a church of their faith, Orthodoxy.
Our Cathedral of the Annunciation was officially organized in 1905. September 5, 1905 is recognized as the birthday of our church. It has grown from an immigrant Church which first worshiped in a rented hall in downtown Atlanta to the present resplendent Cathedral on Clairmont Road.
September 5, 1905 is recognized as the birthday of our church. That is when a group of Greek immigrants living in Atlanta joined together to form a community bound by a common faith and cultural heritage. Why was it so important for them to come together? Why not just live and work in America and let the chips fall where they may? Because they were Greeks, and to be Greek is to be intimately connected to the common ancestry from which they came. They were inheritors of the Christian tradition of the Apostles, of Byzantium, and the Modern Greek state. They are also the cultural inheritors of the Ancient Greeks, students of the great classical minds such as Homer, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. They believed deeply in the principles of freedom and democracy, the foundation both of their ancient inheritance and the new culture in which they settled. It meant that they had great faith and patriotism, ready at a moment’s notice to die for either. It meant that they could not go to a strange land and let their magnificent religious and cultural traditions slip away. Those first Greeks who came to America over 100 years ago and the early immigrants in Atlanta in 1905 joined together to keep their inheritance alive for generations to come.
Since the number of Greeks in Atlanta had grown substantially by the early 1900's, community leaders started seeking a place for worship and other gatherings. A society was organized with the name "Evangelismos" for the purpose of finding a place to worship. On September, 5, 1905, the recognized birthday of our church, the Greek community had adopted a new Constitution and Charter and a new name, the members of the "Annunciation Society".
The beginnings were modest. Initial Church services were held in a rented hall on the second floor of a building at 113 1/2 Whitehall Street from 1905-1906. The hall became a Greek Orthodox Chapel with the name, "The Annunciation of the Mother of Christ." Those comprising the founding group were: Constantine Boutos, Christos Kotsakos, Nicholas Kouloukes, Constantine Verge, Gerasimos Algers, John Stavropoulos, and Constantine Haralambides.
Services were conducted by a traveling priest, Father Constantine Bakaliaros. Regular services began with the appointment of Father Christos Angelopoulos, who was followed by Father Constans Hanzidemetriou. By 1906, The founding society had grown to 72 and met at 120 1/2 Decatur Street, above a sporting goods store. This area, slightly over a block south of Five Points, was surrounded by many Greek stores and residences.
The Whitehall Street chapel was only a temporary location. The congregation aspired to a sanctuary of Greek or Byzantine style with a school and community hall. As is often pointed out, "God moves in many ways to support His people." And God moves seems to have certainly brought the unexpected availability of a Presbyterian Church on the corner of Garnett Street and Central Avenue. The total price was $9.000 and the sale was finalized in July, 1906. The first services were held at this new location on May 8, 1906. This Presbyterian church was converted into not only the Greek Orthodox church, but also housed a school and facilities for community gatherings. Classes began in 1914 in the school. A separate board was created for the school. The one of the founding members of that board was Nicholas Charles Dodys.
From this larger worship facility came opportunities to form local societies of panhellenic nature. The first Atlanta parish organization was the Danaos Society, founded on May 3, 1908. Other societies followed with chapters throughout the nation. Atlanta was fast becoming an important geographical location among America's Greek communities.
This location served as the Greek Orthodox and community rallying center through World War I and into the 1920's. Like most other churches, the Atlanta Greek Orthodox congregation suffered unexpected dissention during this period. The friction was brought on by the politico-religious climate in Greece since many of the Atlanta members still had close ties with their motherland. However, voices of moderation, together with love for their new country, prevailed and the church emerged stronger than ever.
With the continuing increase in membership and the growing number of youth for the Greek Language school, the Garnett Street & Central Avenue facilities became inadequate. Again, the hand of God seemed to intervene with Divine action. In 1928, while the Parish Council was searching for locations and ways to develop a new church property, the Board of the Temple Congregation, a Jewish Synagogue, offered their building and grounds for sale at the corner of Pryor and Richardson streets at a cost of $35,000. This transaction was completed on July 1. 1929. After extensive renovation, including a large cross at the top of the dome and one over the entrance, the Atlanta Greek Community had a new worship home. In 1928, the community moved its place of worship again, this time to the corner of Pryor and Richardson Streets where a large, stone, Byzantine-styled edifice, formerly a Jewish Synagogue, was purchased and remodeled into a lovely Greek Church.
The Pryor Street facilities served the local congregation through the depression period - with the ensuing economic problems - and until after World War II. Volunteers canvassed the local Greek businesses during the depression era in order to have funds to operate the church. This location served for almost forty years until the continued rapid growth of the community and city made another move imperative.
In 1964, the outstanding building program of the Parish was launched which culminated, six years later, in the dedication of the present aesthetically and spiritually fulfilling new Church structure and Educational wing at 2500 Clairmont Road on December 20, 1970 when the Church was named a Cathedral.
Here Greek Orthodoxy in Atlanta stands today keeping faith with its heritage, remaining true to its traditions, carrying forward the simple, humble beginnings of the early immigrants to a fruition they could scarcely have dreamed possible.