A Brief History of Saint George Church in New Britain
“One generation goes away, and another generation comes: but the earth remains forever.” Ecclesiastes 1:4
Our First Church on Beatty Street
From America’s birth a miniscule number of citizens of Hellenic descent have been part of its population.
Beginning in 1890 their number began to increase as a slow but steady strem of Greeks migrated to America.
Most huddles together in the larger cities, however, an adventurous few began to trickle into the smaller cities seeking their economic Eldorado. It was in 1897 that oral tradition lists of Paul Cocores as the first person of Hellenic descent to immigrate to New Britain.
New Britain census of 1910 lists 33 people as having been born in Greece. That actual number was undoubtedly much greaster, given the recent arrivals’ mistrust of government. Despite living in a frightening foreign environment and fighting a constant struggle for economic survival, this band of mostly bachelors was optimistic about their future. Most of them lived in rooming houses on Main, Church, or Lafayette Street in this strange land they would eventually grow to love. When possible they gathered at the “kafenion” or coffee house, a vestige of Greek culture available to them. Here some of the wages were spent living the life they rememberes, often yearning for home and family. Unconfirmed sources have stated that intinerant preacher performed the first Greek Orthodox Divine Liturgy in New Britain on the second floor above one of these coffee houses.
By 1913 visiting priests from Springfield, Bridgeport, Norwich, or New York would irregularly come to New
Britain to celebrate a Divine Liturgy or the sacrament of baptism in the homes of those who had enough space to accommodate a small crowd. Young brides-t-be would scramble to try to secure the Russian or Ukrainian churches for their weddings.
At this time, an embryonic organization came into existence. A handful of men, most of whom would serve on the first parish council, became the founders of the church. They divided the various administrative duties among themselves, and began collecting 50 cents per month per family or person for a building fund. The money was kept in a “church box” that was passed from store to home within the Greek community.
In 1915 New Britain was a far different place than it is today. Its mayor, George A. Quigley, presided over a city of approximately 55,000 people. A loaf of bread cost 8 cents, 3 houses in 10 had bathtubs, and gasoline for a horseless carriage cost 20 cents. The average person working in New Britain was worried because wages had not kept up with the sudden rise in prices. A highly skilled worker would have to work between 60 and 65 hours per week to earn $650 a year. An unskilled worker from Greece or a proficient female seamstress would earn about half that amount. Despite these obstacles, with an unbridles faith in God, a determined group of Greek immigrants willingly donated 50 cents per month to buy the soon-to-be vacated Russian Orthodox Church and establish Saint George Greek Orthodox Church of New Britain. The records at New Britain City Hall indicate that the former Russian Orthodox Church at 42 Beatthy Street was purchased for $2,500. There are no other written records or information available for 1915, but it is quite clear that our church was already informally organized and named Saint George. It was with pride and prayer that on April 23, 1916, the community of Saint George celebrated its first Resurrection service in its own church. Shortly threafter, the parish witnessed its first in-church baptism. This baptism was celebrated for the second child of Eleftherios and Marianthie Tavlarithu; the infant was christened Anastasia. This sacrament insured that the new community of Saint George was firmly established; it had planted its roots and would flourish.
The church would become morethan just an enourmous spiritual force in the Greek community; it would become the cultural and social center of the Greek immigrant’s lives.
On Sunday, May 21, 1916, the first official General Assembly meeting was convened. Of the 187 original members of Sianit George Greek Orthodox Church of New Britain’s congregation, 46 “Founding Fathers” attended this historic meeting. The following is an English translation of the first official written records: “Today, Sunday, May 21, in the year of our Lord 1916, Greek Orthodox Christians held a General
Assembly Meeting in the Community of St. George for the purpose of electing a Parish Council.” Chosen by standing vote, those listed below are the officially elected members of the Parish Council. With their signature, they declare that they are accepting the task to serve as members of the Parish Council, protecting the best interests of the Holy Church of the Community of St. Georgeand its surrounding towns. They are: President Panagiotes E. Evangelou, Vice President Peter H. Karlames, Treasurer Peter G. Perakos, and Secretary Costas Coveris. Members of the Parish Council: John Theofilatos, D.H. Demetriou, Loukas Emmanuel, and Michael Calos. Auditing Committee: Christodoulos Xypolitakis and Basil Allintamos, and Collectors: Kallis Gregoritsas and George Kladas of Hartford. Father Stefanos is the first priest.
Friday, June 2, 1916, at nine o’clock in the evening at the home of Michael Calos, the Parish Council conducted its first formal meeting.
At this meeting a committee consisting of the President, Treasurer, and Secretary, Parish Council member Loukas Emmanuel was appointed to oversee the legal procedures of the church. Administrative problems were discussed including the issuance of duplicate receipts and the need for a church seal. Beginning with the second Parish Council meeting and continuing for more than sixty years, a Parish Council meeting minutes were declared official only after they had been stamped with the seal of the “Church of St. George and Surrounding Towns”. Two months after its election, the Parish Council announced the first General Assembly would be held on July 23, 1916. The purpose of this meeting was to raitify and publish a constitution and to pay a $500 installment due on October 15 on the debt incurred when the church was purchased. The final payment was made in 1917.
The tasks required to keep the church viable were divided among the Parish Council members. Some gathered in the church basement to make candles, others acted as sextons, cleaning and repairing the building. Another group spent Sunday afternoon visiting members of the parish to collect the family church obligations. The monthly expense of 50 cents was a heay burden for most, yet it was one they willingly carried. Church membership rapidly increased. At the end of the year it had reached 249 members. When a family attended the Divine Liturgy fathers and boys would sit in the pews on the right while mothers and daughters sat on the left.
The list of the accomplishments of the first Parish Council was truly amazing. They had organized the church community and completed paying for the church building. They also expanded the Iconostasis, purchased holy icons, a church bell, crucifix, and epitaphios. When their term of office was completed, they transferr3ed $77.24 to the next Parish Council.
In 1918 an afternoon Greek Language School was established; the first teacher was Mrs. Sliadou.
Two years later Mr. Athanasios Athanasiades of Hrtford became the prinicple instructor. Afternoon Greek Language School classes were held at various locations throughout New Britain including lengthy stays over Central Lunch and the Homestead Bakery. The studets’ favorite place was the brief stay in an area of the Palace Theater. To gain access to Greek School the students showed their Greek books and passed through the main lobby of the movie theater. Occasionally the student would risk the wrath of Mr. Perakos by quickly placing their books under the sweaters, executing a wrong turn and, instead of a Greek lesson, have an afternoon at the movies.
Athanasios Athanasiades represented the “Church of St. George and Surrounding Towns” at the 1922 Clergy- Laity Conclave, which was called by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America. The parish agreed to:
1) Sending $20 every three months to the seminary of St. Athanasios,
2) Contributing to the widows and orphans fund, and
3) Regularly having special collections in church for the Pariarchate.
They formally placed themselves under the auspices of the Archdiocese. The community now recognized the spiritual authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Archdiocese. In return they would be provided with spiritual guidance and direction.
After World War I and continuing through the Great Depressions, the American Dream had soured for many immigrants from Greece. Federal government records indicate that nearly half of all registered Greeks who arrives in America before 1915 returned to Greece where they would experience a higher standard if living. It was the reverse in central Connecticut. The Greek-American population grew so dramatically that a realignment of towns for each parish was needed. By 1928 the Hartfor community had separated from New Britain and the Britol community was attached to Waterbury. Meriden was initially transferred to Hartford but after a committee explained to the Archdiocese that Meriden had become an integral part of the New Britain community, Meriden was allowed to return to the New Britain parish. At the time, few Greek-Americans had automobiles, making the trip from Meriden to New Britain a difficult one. The first part of the trip was the train ride to Berlin, then from Berlin there was a bus ride to the New Britain bus terminal, and the final part of the jourmney was a walk up the hill to Beatthy Street. He trip took an hour to complete!
The parish experiences a growth in size and vitality. Renovations to the church structure were begun, including having an updated heating system installed. By 1926 the church choir began to accompany the cantor as he chanted the Divine Liturgy responses. That same year AHEPA chapters in bothe Meriden and New Britain were started. The following year, an organization that eventually became known as the Mother’s Club, was founded. Its mission was to help those who needed assistance. Afternoon Greek language schools were started in several of the surrounding towns.
By the mid 1930s the parish of Saint George had to decide if they should remain on Beatty Street and add a cultural center or purchase a church with a community center. Nearly twenty years after the historic first General Assembly meeting, on May 1, 1936, a General Assembly voted unanimously to approve the formation of a special committee to collect donations for the Building Fund. Church records indicate that Peter Perakos donated $500, Nicholas Kounaris and Peter Gianaris each donated $100. These three men were then appointed to the Building Fund Committee. The General Assembly stipulated the monies collected for the new church were to be kept separate fro the other funds used to finance the daily operations of Saint George.
The community of Saint George answered, despite their individual struggles to emerge from the financial
problems of the Great Depressions. They dug deep into their collective pockets to contribute to the Building Fund. Slowly but steadily the fund began to grow. On July 31, 1939, the proposed purchase of a protestant church on South Main Street was rejected. Mr Perakos and Mr. Kounaris reported that the
construcing a new church.
As Saint building would be too cotly to rennovate. Enthusiastically,l the General Assembly unanimously appoved the concept of George approached its 25 th anniversary, construction of a new church was not the parishioners main concern. World War II had already begun; mother Greece was already fighting and its people were starving. The factories of New Britain were busy twenty-four hours a day. The AHEPA of New Britain and Meriden were very active in the War Bond drives. The Greek War Relief was gathering clothes and supplies for the misfortunate war victims. The women of the Mother’s Club fully understood the Lord’s words, “they also serve who stand and wait” as they gathered in mutual support praying for their sons to safely return home from the war. Two members of the parish did not return: James P. Morris and Peter H. Nicholas died for our freedom.
America had been at war for less that a year when on October 11, 1942, in the office of Peter Perakos, the
Parish Council and other leaders of the Hellenic community approved the purchase of a plot of land on North MainStreet. These same men then donated $9,500 for the project. One week later at a General Assembly meeting the congregation approved the Parish Council actions and authorized the payment of $5,300 for the purchase of the North Main Street lot. At the same meeting a Building Fund Committee was organized. The committee officers were: President Peter Perakos, Vice President Nicholas Kounaris, Secretary Leon Greos, and Treasurer Peter Tolis. The committee also included Michael Davey, George Kamas, Charles Kondonellis, Harry Kounaris, Plato Kounaris, Ernest Kyzinis, Peter Morris, and James Pante.
Two years after its formation, the Building Fund Committee reported that they had collected $20,000. This is truly remarkable considering the War Bond drives, Greek War Relief, Red Cross, and Community Chest were simultaneously requesting funds from the Hellenic community. The entire Hellenic community and all of the organizations associated with Saint George were very generous, donating as much as they could for the proposed new church. It was acknowledged by the entire parish that Peter Perakos was the driving force behind the project. Since he had “unselfishly contributed buich of his time, energy, and resources” toward the success of the building fund drive, on January 16, 1944, the General Assembly elevated Mr. Perakos to Honorary President of the Parish.
A sudden zoning change made the North Main Street property inadequate for the community’s needs. Therefore, in March 1948 the property was sold for $10,500. The plan was to use the $5,2002 profit to purchase BUILDING LOT IN Franklin Square. As negotiations were progressing, a larger more suitable plot of land on West Main Street became available. Twelve years after the decision to move from Beatty Street was initially suggested, on September 9, 1948 the property where the new Saint George would be built was finally purchased. Throughout the twelve year process of trying to locate the building lot for the new church, the community of Saint George was fortunate to have the guidance of the Archdiocese. Church records indicate that His Emince Archbishop Athenagoras made numerous trips to New Britain to offer assistance.
The price of the property was $40,000, but by selling some of the adjoining land the price was reduced to
$35,000. Located on the property was the historic John B. Talcott House. An extended debate as to the fate of the building and where to locate the new church on the property took place. After reviewing a plethora of options and proposals it was determined that:
1) The new church would be constructed next to the existing structure,
2) The Tolcott House would become the social center and house both the Greek and Sunday
3) The upper floors would become apartments for bothe the parish priest and the sexton.
With the approval of the General Assembly, the Parish Council and Building Fund Committee retained the services of architects Vasilios Loumos and Chris Kantigiannis to submit a design for the new church. The architectual drawings were submitted for approval to the Building Fund Committee, Parish Council, and Archdiocese on February 28, 1949.
The Parish Council financial report from March 9, 1950 indicated that the community of Saint George had a cash balance of $36,000. In addition, the recently acquired property and building were valued at an equal amount. Eleven years and a World War had passed after first deciding to build a church, construction of a new Saint George was finally at hand. March 25, 1950, the day we celebrate the Annunciation of the Theotokos and Greek Independence Day the submitted construction bids were opened. The bids ranged from $82,000 to $96,000. The contract was awarded to the Wadhams and May Company of Hartford. However, payment as requested by the contractor was seen as too restrictive and the award was withdrawn. June 1, 1950 in the office of parish attorney Stephen Perakos, the Building Committee composed of Peter Perakos, Nicholas Kounaris, Apostolis Tolis, Peter Calos, John Limberis, and Michael Montos, signed a contract with B.B. Stein Building Company to build the new Saint George for $78,000. Five days later, on June 6, Father Philip Saltas blessed the ground upon which the new Saint George Church would be built, and then President Peter Perakos broke ground with the first ceremonial shovel of dirt. After the Divine Liturgy on September 10, 1950, His Grace Bishop Germanos of Nyssa assisted by Father Saltis and three students from Holy Cross Theological Seminary conducted the Cornerstone Laying Ceremony. The New Britain Herals reported that Father Saltis read a short document. It contained a synopsis of the construction of the church, the names of the Parish Council members, the Building Fund Committee members, the architect and the contractor. This paper plus a sketch of the church were placed in a tin box for the cornerstone. Bricklayer G. Emmanuel Giansiratusa then attached the cornerstone to the building. The mayor of New Britain, His Honor John L. Sullivan, made a brief speech that was followed by an “Aweinspiring sermon” from His Grace Bishop Germanos. Architect Chris Kantiogiannis and President Perakos spoke of the work that still needed to be accomplished. A pledge drive raiswed $13,460. The newspaper article concluded, “Dinner at the Vagabondia for officials and guests followed the ceremonies”.
Despite the community’s best efforts, the Building Fund Committee announced that $40,000 was needed to complete the construction of the church. On November 10, 1950 at the Hartford National Bank of Elmwood, a mortgage for $40,000 with a 3.5% rate was obtained. The bank offered these terms of personal guarantees of payment by Peter Perakos, Nicholas Kounaris, and Peter Tolis. The terms further stipulated that if more money was needed it could be borrowed at the same interest rate. An additional $5,950 was borrowed to pay the Peerless Woodworking Corporation of Glastonbury for the church pews. The church treasury received some much-needed income on January 11, 1951 when the building on Beatty Street was sold to the Syrian Veterans of Foreign Wars for $7,000.
Saturday, September 1, 1951 a special Greek Orthodox Divine Litrgy was celebrated on Beatty Street. Upon completion of the service Father Saltis sat in an open convertible supporting the icon of Saint George as it was transported in a street procession to West Main Street. Singing the dismissal hymn of Saint George, with prayer, reverence and joy, the congregation enthroned the icon in the new church.
Eight days later, on September 9,1951, the new Saint George Greek Orthodox Church officially opened its
doors to receive its congregation. Invitations were also extended to the city officials of New Britain, its clergy, donors, and all Greek Orthodox Christians to attend the opening celebration.
Mitchell Pappas, a well known artist of Greek descent, created the design of the interior of Saint George. He explained that his task was to combine the traditional Orthodox dogma with a twentieth century Greek
Orthodox Church in America. In the apse, he painted the fresco of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child.
To their left and right are the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. The Pantocrator, in the center dome, represents heaven with a painting of Christ Who rules the church from His throne in heaven. Surrounding Christ are the four evangelists. No sooner had Saint George opened, the task of completing the interior began. Organizations associated with Saint George and individual donors provided the funds for the purchase of sacred vessels, icons, chandeliers, kneelers, and other items.
In the earliest days of Christianity, new churches were built over the burial sited of saints. Soon this proved to be impractical and the custom of placing a relic (bone) of a saint in the altar table of new churches was begun.
Once the interior of Siant Goeorge Church was completed, the Very Reverend Carl Vouras went to Constntinope / Istanbul to obtain a relic for the church. His All Holiness Patriach Athenagoras presented to Father Vouras a relic of Saint Euphemia. She was martyred on September 16, 305, and her relics are stored in the church of Saint George in Constantinople / Istanbul. Fearing difficulty in transporting the relic to America, the patriarch instructed Father Vouras to wrap the relic in a napkin. If asked to explain its presence, the priest was to tell the authorities that the relic was a chicken bone left over from a meal he had recently eaten. Saint Euphemia’s relics arrived in New Britain without incident.
Exactly five years after the official opening of Saint George, on September 9, 1956, His Grace Bishop Germanos of Constantia assisted by Father Vouras and Archdeacon Spyros Neophetice officiated at the consecration of Saint George Church. The highlight of the services was the placing of Saint Euphemia’s relic into the altar.
Citing their extrodinary efforts, Mrs. Evangeline Kounaris and Mr. Peter Perakos were named Godparents of the newly consecrated church. That evening a Consecration Banquet was held and the mortgage was burned. To a great extent, this was possible because of the Consecration Album, chaired by George Andreas and Alexander George. It produced a profit of $15,000.
The next two decades brought a dramatic change to the Hellenic community of Saint George. The careers of many of the children and grandchildren of the first generation took them away from New Britain. They were replaced by an influx of families grom Greece, whose energy and tenacity reinvigorated the parish. The newly arrived immigrants’ adjustments to America was eased somewhat by the “old timers” and in return the cultural connectoipnd to Greeece were strengthened by the new members of the community.
During this time period, the community of Saint George became an integral part of the city of New Britain,
extending its hand in Christain love to the community. Father Carl Vouras was appointed both New Britain
Fitre Department and State Police Department Chaplain. In 1966 Parish Council President George Kapetan and Father Vouras were part of a group of city leaders who organized Interfaith Housing, a moderate-income housing projest for the city of New Britain.
If the dream of asocial and cultural center were ever to come true, first the priest must be located into a
parish house. In 1967, a home for the priest was purchased on Kenwood Drive for $27,500. When the State of Connecticut began the construction of Highway Route 72, the ½ acre of land between the church property and the highway became available. This lot, which once housed a radio station, was purchased for $42,000. This extra land was necessary for the future community center to meet the building and parking codes required by New Britain.
May 1, 1978, exactly forty-two years after the Building Fund Committee was established, Parish Council President Andrew Lemnotis recognized Costas Yalanis as Chairman of the Building Committee. Mr. Yalanis presented three plans for a new social and cultural center. The first was to rennovate the historic Tolcott House, add several classrooms, and build a connecting walkway between the house and the church. The second was to retain as much of the old structure as possible, and to the rear of the building construct a large social hall and add several classrooms. The thirsd and last optoion was to demolish rthe old building replacing it with a ballroom, kitchen, six classrooms, two offices, a library/conference room, plus a small apartment for a live-in sexton. The architechtural firm of David Butts Associates was hired to design the building. Six days later a specially convened General Assembly approved the premininary plans. On June 27, 1978, the congregation approved $335,000 for removing the third floor of the old mansion, adding a long flat roof to house a ballroom, and completely rennovating the two lower floors for classrooms and offices. As the plans for renovating the Talcott House slowly progressed, the Historical Society of New Britain, the Connecticut Historical Commission, and some citizens of New Britain became interested in preserving and restoring the historic old house. August 12, 1979, Peter Kilduff and Clark Strickland of the Connecticut Historical Commission spoke at the General Assembly. They asked the community of Saint George to only renovate the Talcott House; federal funds might be available for this purpose. They explained the National Historical Preservation Act would provide funds for up to 50% of the restoration for places listed on the National Register of Historical Places. They further explainede the parish would have to apply to have the Talcott House admitted onto the National Register of Historical Places and then make a second application for the funds. At a General Assembly on March 2, 1980, the Building Committee led by Chairman Costas Yalanis made their final reccommendation. They explained:
1) The Tolcott House stood little chance of being included in the National Register of Historic Places,
2) Even if included on the list, the funds available would cover less than 20% of money needed to
modernize the structure to make it suitable for Saint George’s use,
3) Heating and cooling would be very expensive.
Therefore the Building Committee moved the old structure be torn down, and replaced by a new community center. The motion was passed unanimously. The Building Committee was instructed to proceed “with all deliberate speed”.
In addition to Chairman Yalanis, Building Committee members included: Paul Cavatas, Cal Kounaris, Al Haddad, Peter Sklavouris, Tolis Tsakopoulos, Charles Zissis, as well as Clerks of the Works: Captain Herman E. Miller and George Psillas. The Parish Council selsctred D’Amato Construction Company to build the new Social and Cultural Center. In addition, Dr. Costos C. Poulos was appointed Financial Committee Chairman. His assignment, with the other committee members, was to raise the funds to pay for the new building. In the last week of April 1980, after last minute efforts to move or save the historic Talcott House failed, the Bristol Crance Company began the process of razing the old building. The chandeliers, fireplaces, and other items including the bricks of the old Talcott House were sold. The sale of these products provided more than $50,000 of much needed revenue. A home once full of dreams would give way to a new structure, fulfilling the long-held dream of a community center for Saint George. Much had happened since that first General Assembly 65 years ago. George Valakos, one of the “founding fathers” had seen it all. Now he stood center stage as the Parish Council, the Building Committee, the Building Finance Committee, Architect David Butts, Builder Edward D’Amaot, and the congregation of Sinat George Church witnessed Father Carl Vouros blessing the ground with prayers and Holy Water. Another chapter of the history of Saint George was beginning.
The construction of the social and cultural center, eventually named the Hellenic Center, was the most expensive project the community of Saint George had ever undertaken. With pride and determination, the congregation worked to raise the necessary funds. Every organization associated with Saint George met or surpassed its pledge for the new building. While the church members dug deep into their own pockets to raise the money, special fund raisers including an automobile raffle were held. In the meantime, the construction costs needed to be paid. The big-ticket items included: The architect’s fees of $30,000, dismantling the old house $9,000, construction of the new building $530,000, equipment required for the operation of the new building $30,000. However, as staggering as these costs were, at the completion of construction the community only owed approximately $135,000. Years after he retired from the Saint George Church community, Father Vouras was still amazed by the community’s willingness to donate to the cause. Father Vouras said, “Not even in my prayers did I believe we would so quickly raise such money.”
The new Hellenic Center was beautiful. It had a ballroom that could accommodate 500 people (recent fire codes reduced that number to 350), a kitchen, a bar area, a stage, four bathrooms, five classrooms, a conference room, two offices, and a small kitcheonette. A second floor area that had not yet been completed was designed to be a small apartment for a sexton. February 28, 1982, an Apokriatiko Glendi with more than 500 people in attendance, was the first even celebrated in the new center. An excited community was very proud of its accomplishments.
An energized congregation began the task of paying off its debt. The money to apy off the debt was acquired with a combination of private donations and fundraisers. The community participated in New Britain’s Main Street USA, selling tiropita, spanakopita, and baklava. At the Southington Apple Festival, gyros were a popular seller. The largest payment was made in 1984 when the creativity and leadership of Tolis Tsakopoulos resulted in Saint George hosting its first Dionysos Greek Festival.
The Dionysos Festival has become an annual event.
With its accompanying raffle, it has become a major source of revenue for the communty of Saint George.
A letter dated June 1985, from the New Britain National Bank, congratulated the Saint George community for retiring its mortgage in three years. The letter further stated that a total of $690,000 had been spent for constructing and furnishing the Hellenic Center.
October 27, 1985, His Grace Bishop Athenagoras of Dorylaion presided as a crowded Hellenic Center said
farewell to Father Carl Vouras. After serving as te parish priest at Saint George for 30 years, Father Vouras was retiring. Possibly the highlight of the evening was the ceremonial burning of the Hellenic Center mortgage.
Expansion of the Community Center
Father James Bogiatzis, the new priest assigned to Saint George Church, purchased his own home. As a result, the parish house was no longer needed. The General Assembly of November 3, 1985 instructed the Parish Council to sell the house. The profit from the sale of the property was nearly $115,000. The money was placed into an Endowment Fund; the interest earned from the fund would be used to pay for future parish expenses.
Less than five years after the construction of the Hellenic Center was completed, it was obvious to the church leaders that it needed to be expanded. The number of students enrolled in Catechetical School had multiplied many times since the construction of the center. On Sundays, the five classrooms were filled, the conference room was turned into a nursery school, and other classes were held in the ballroom foyer, in the priest’s office, and in the ballroom. Rentals to non-church affiliated groups increased dramatically. In addition, various groups preparing for the Dionysos festivals and other events needed space to store their foodstuffs and other supplies.
January 5, 1987, President Artemis Nemphos appointed a feasibility committee to examine how thay could increase the number of classrooms, expand storage capacity, enlarge the existing kitchen, and finish the interior of the existing second floor. President Nemphos appointed Nick George Chairman. The other
members of the Building Committee were Matthew Curtis, Al Haddas, Evangelos Psillas, George Rados, and Charles Zissis. Upoin completing their preliminary study of possible solutions, the Building Committee hired the firm of David Butts, the same architect who designed the Hellenic Center. The first architectual rendering from the architechtual firm of David Butts Associates had to wait for parking and other structural variance approval from the city of New Britain. On September 12, 1988, the preliminary expansion plans were presented to the Parish Council. The estimated cost would be $150, plus a probable
$15,000 for additional equipment. These costs would be in addition to the $15,000 in architectural fees.
Without hesitation, at the November 5, 1989 General Assembly, the congregation of Saint George voted to support the expansion of their community building. Former Parish Council President, Captain Herman E. Miller, was named Building Committee Chairman to oversee the construction of the expansion.
At the same time the Building Committee was studying the expansion of the Hellenic Center, they discovered that the Goodwin Technical School of New Britain would be able to install central air conditioning in the church. The installation would be part of the Goodwin student curriculum and done on the school’s timetable.
As a result, there would be no labor costs associated with installing the system. Saint George’s only expense would be to purchase all of the necessary equipment. Recognizing a rare oppourtunity, Evangelos Psillas, Matthew Curtis, and George Kapetan accepted the offer. They riased the $12,000 required to complete the installation from church affiliated organizations and individual contributions. In the summer of 1990 the congregation of Saint George celebrated the Divine Liturgy in air conditioned comfort.
In November 1989, two bids for the expansion of the Hellenic Center were apened at Attorney Theodore Poulos’ office. One bid was for $166,666 and the other was for $175,000. Since both bids exceeded the allowable time limit, five more requests for construction bids were sent to various contractors. The new bids were opened January 19, 1990 at Attorney Poulos’ office. CALCO Construction won the bid at $150,000 to expand the second floor of the Hellenic Center and to add a back kitchen to the existing cooking area. In February 1990, CALCO Construction Company began to excavate the area behind the Hellenic Center. After Building Chariman Captain Miller resigned the Building Committee Chairmanship, Presiden Nemphos assumed the position. Unforseen construction problems, changes and additions, some required by the Department of Health, added another $15,000 to the construction costs. The newly purchsed kitchen equipment added $12,000 more. Including $15,000 in architecutal fees, construction and equipment, the total cost for the addition to the Hellenic Center was $189,811.
The contractor worked quickly, finishing much of the construction prior to the Dionysos Festival. Additional kitchen facilities and a room for the dishwasher were added. Increased storage capacity was now available. To comply with Fire and Healt regulations, the required second staircase would now allow the unfinished area of the construction to be used as classrooms and / or an apartment for the sexton. Donald Cmuchowski served the communtyi as custodian for over thirty years but lived on nearby Lexington Street instead of occupying the apartment.
From 1954 to 2017 Saint George had only two spiritual Leaders, the Reverend Carl Vouras and Reverend James Bogiatzis, they each served the parish 31 and 32 years respectively prior to their retirements. Saint George’s next priest, Father Constantine Makrinos, was here four years prior to his retirement in West Virginia.
September 1, 2021, brought to Saint George our current priest Hieromonk Spyridon Chatzis.
Several weeks prior to Christmas, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, ceremoniously elevated him to Very Reverend Archimandrite Spyridon. Since his assignment to Saint George Father Spyridon has been busy upgrading the Altar items and modernizing our communication system.
This brief history of the community of Saint George is a story of its physical growth. The willingness of the
congregation to place financial burdens upon themselves is obvious. This was done because there abides
within the membership a deep love for the community of Saint George, the Orthodox faith, and Hellenic
culture. Untold numbers of people have spent endless hours in numerous ways preparing for religious or
social events associated with our community. Attending a General Assembly or a meeting of any organization affiliated with Saint George, one will hear strong conviction emotionally defended as people struggle to solve a current problem.
From its very beginnings of a cluster of immigrants without a church building, to a hundred years with a modern church, Hellenic Center and an annex, the community has maintained its twin objectives: to nurture the growth of the Greek Orthodox faith, and to preserve the traditions of Greece. An outstanding example of this is the Bishop’s Throne located on the right side of the soleas. It does not match the décor of the interior of Saint George, yet with pride it occupies the prominent place it deserves it came from the first church on Beatty Street.
To compile the history of Saint George available written sources were used as well as oral information from the people who witnessed the event or their descendants who recalled countless retellings of what happened. Much of what should be in the official records of Saint George has been lost or is incomplete. It is very possible for written information to be inaccurate and exceedingly difficult for two or more persons to remember the same event and to agree on its details. An example of this is the procession bringing the icon of Saint George from Beatty Street to West Main Street. Some people remember the congregation walked to the new church; others insisted almost everyone rode to the new church. Your forgiveness is requested if what is recorded in this history does not agree with your remembered perception of what transpired.