History of Our Parish - Celebrating the First Divine Liturgy PDF Print
History of Our Parish
Celebrating the First Divine Liturgy
Building the First Church
Growth In The Church Community
World War II Involvement and Post War Growth
Building the Hellenic Center
Building the Present Church on South Grande Avenue
Growth in the New Church, Tragedy, and Recovery
The 80s and 90s
List of Chanters, Choir Director, Organists, and Sunday School Directors
List of Parish Council Presidents
List of Parish Priests
Closing Remarks
All Pages

In 1921 & 1922 members began to meet to see how they could not only have their celebrations, but also celebrate the Divine Liturgy here in Poughkeepsie. The first meeting took place in the Papastrat Ice Cream Store on the southeast corner of Main and Hamilton St., when the store was closed for business. There were enough present to have another meeting in the spring of 1923 and to name people to an official committee. They then elected their representative Board: Pres. Artemis G. Papastrat, Vice Pres. John B. Vassilliw, Treas. Louis G. Kustas, and Sec. Stephen E. Antonakos. Trustees were Stephen Pappas and John Theodoropoulos.

First Board of Trustees - 1924

In their discussions and meetings, they knew they had the financial ability to obtain a place for Church services. For the present, they sought out a place that was near their homes and businesses. Their businesses were located mainly between Hamilton St. and Market St. and their homes were in that surrounding area. A church chapel on South Cherry St., which met these needs, was located. They did not look for a more distant site because few if any had automobiles. Contact was established with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in New York. Thus began the process of incorporation with the Archdiocese. The Board met with the members of the community and Mr. Louis G. Kustas presented the name of Kimisis Tis Theotokou as the new name of the parish. When this took place the Archdiocese sent Rev. Agathangelos Petropoulos, their first priest. The parish would assume the travel and pay of the new parish priest. The first Treasurer, Louis G. Kustas, records that as of October 8, 1923 $270.00 had been raised for the church community and was deposited in the bank. On Sunday October 14, 1923 the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the South Cherry St. chapel.

The chapel was rented on a monthly basis so that services took place each Sunday as well as special church holidays and Sacraments during the week. Not only residents of Poughkeepsie attended but also others came from the Mid-Hudson area. At their previous meetings, some funds had been raised to purchase the required liturgical church items that would be used in the rented chapel. They also began to deposit the donations made during church services and at other meetings, in their local bank.

They now began to look forward in having their own regular church building someday. The Board and others began to search what churches might be available for purchase. They located one large, tall brick church near the center of the city, the Dutch Reformed Church, on the northeast corner of Mill and Catherine Sts; it was for sale. This was close to their homes and businesses. It was beautifully appointed and finished with polished mahogany woodwork. Mr. Peter Chamberas, Sr. told me that the Reformed Church parish was moving to the edge of the city on upper Hooker Ave. He said they decided not to purchase it because there were only a dozen families in the Kimisis community and they felt they would be lost inside this huge building. It even had a huge hall and a parish house. Cost must have also been considered, as the members were all shrewd businessmen.

They met again and noted that many churches were gradually moving to the outer edges of the city on Hooker Ave. Mr. Chamberas said that they had serious meetings and it was almost a split decision to remain in the city center. They decided that the new church should not be located at a distant site. A central city site was to be the location.

They searched and finally found an apartment building within the center of Poughkeepsie. They purchased this property as the future site for a new church intending to demolish the apartment and build. But they soon realized that it would be too costly to demolish. They sold the apartment and purchased the empty lot next to it, in order to build the new church.

Louis G. Kustas was a member of the Triune Masonic Lodge 266 in Poughkeepsie. One of his lodge brothers, Carpenter DuBois, was an architect. Apparently, they must have talked about building a new church in Poughkeepsie. An architectural historian, about 15 years ago, pointed out that Mr. DuBois gave the Greek community a free set of plans for their church. The plans had been used before, for another church in Lancaster, Pa. So it had to be that Mr. Dubois gave the plans to his lodge brother Mr. Louis G. Kustas.

The community now incorporated themselves in 1924, with New York State, as the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church of Poughkeepsie, NY. The name Assumption stayed with the community until 1967 when it became Kimisis Tis Theotokou. They previously used the name Assumption because that is the common name that was known by those not of the Orthodox Church. August 15th is the titular nameday of our church community. It is also a church holiday of the Roman Catholic and High Episcopalian churches where it known as The Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Our Kimisis holiday goes back to the early days of Christianity. The Assumption is a holiday of the Roman Church that was dogmatized in 1950 and it has a different theology from the Orthodox Church.

One of the first picnics held by our community in 1925

While the community was planning for the new church, services were held on Sundays and sometimes on a daily basis at the South Cherry St chapel. I inherited a record book of the Church that belonged to my father in-law, Louis G. Kustas, the first Treasurer. It is fascinating to read those early notations that show how active they were in their church work. They were accurate, fastidious and punctual. It was not all work and no play. His book indicates their expenses for picnics and holiday celebrations along with their church services. Since they did not have an organized choir for their liturgical services, one of the Board members, Stephen Antonakos, became the Church’s first chanter in 1923. The congregation would usually sing along with the chanter since all knew the hymns and responses. The chanter acted as an informal musical leader.

Now that they had the site and the plans for the new Church, they saw that they had to make an alteration. They examined their finances and saw that they would not have enough funds to build according to the blueprints. Therefore, they shortened the length of the church by 30 feet. They also strengthened the tower sites in hope to later place two small belfries on the front of the building, but this did not materialize. On July 16, 1924 the church members with Rev. Petropoulos officiating, held the groundbreaking ceremony. Meanwhile services regularly continued at South Cherry St chapel.