History of Our Parish - Building the Present Church on South Grande Avenue 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
Conclusion
List of Chanters, Choir Director, Organists, and Sunday School Directors
List of Parish Council Presidents
List of Parish Priests
Closing Remarks
All Pages

In 1963 Rev. A. Chamberas left the community and was replaced by Rev. Athanasios Rizos from Worcester, Mass. Rev. Rizos instituted Bible studies for the community, a Goya Chapter for the youth and revitalized the Sunday school. The Greek Language School was given greater attention by the Trustees and a graduate of St. Basil’s Academy, Anna Kotiadou, was obtained to serve as the teacher. She also helped with the clerical work of the church. Since the 1930’s the Greek School had been taught at the church on Academy St. and now it was taught at the Hellenic Center.

Rev. Rizos had served in Worcester, Mass. where he oversaw the building of a large, new and impressive church. He and the Trustees discussed his experiences there and the many programs that he had helped initiate. He noted that to build a church, it would require organization and a lot of hard work by the community. The Trustees knew that a new church would be built but not exactly when. The catalyst was next to the existing church property bordered by South Grand Avenue, Park Avenue, and Hooker Avenue.

Fr. Nick Soteropoulos blessing the cornerstone in 19671968 Building Fund Committee

The private Poughkeepsie Day School was located on the land next to the Center and the proposed church site. The School had decided to sell its large property and move to a Vassar College site. The City YMCA initially wanted to purchase the site and move there from the city center. They changed their mind and decided to move and build a new facility nearby in Eastman Park.

The Trustees then visited the site with the idea of purchasing the large School building and converting it into a temporary Church until a permanent one would be built. If they obtained the land it would almost double the size of what we owned. The asking price was over $100,000. We could not afford that amount. The Trustees sought to buy 2/3rds of the land. They located an automotive service corporation and a large commercial ice cream corporation that would buy the other 1/3. They would face Hooker Ave. away from the proposed church site. There was also another group who wished to purchase the land for a series of connected apartments. The Trustees all signed financial notes as a binder on this proposal. The proposal went to the zoning board and zoning appeals board . It was finally up to the City Common Council to make the final decision in our favor or not. The Council Chamber was packed with people. Representatives spoke for both sides. We all wore little blue ribbons to illustrate our cause. After a prolonged evening, the Council did not vote in our favor. Thus the decision was now apparent that we would someday build our new church on our property. The Trustees had made a valiant effort with the backing of the community.

Building Fund DinnerPerformance by the 'Beatles' at the Building Fund Dinner.

Another interesting note, at that time, is that St. Gregory’s Orthodox Church was formed from St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Poughkeepsie, because they did not want to have just Slavonic in their services. Many of their communicants were not of Russian heritage. They wanted some Slavonic but most of it to be in English. They were concerned about their new generation. Rev. Rizos asked if they wished to become part of our church community but they did not want to. We helped them hold their Liturgy and services in our Academy St. church once we had finished our Sunday services. They remained with us about a year until they found another semi-permanent site.

All during these eventful times Church services & holidays continued along with community meetings and social fundraising activities. The main concern of the community was the building of the new Church.

A Trustee representative visited the Center’s architect and reported to the Trustees that the architect was not familiar with our Church liturgical life and activities. The Trustees then decided to establish a core church building committee to look into all aspects of erecting a new church. This committee was formed and met on January 11, 1965. There were originally just 7 members; Lou J. Kustas, Tom Martini, Bill Pappas, Katie Buck, Steve Pechewlys, Gus Vaselekos & Zanis Mavodones. They soon expanded the committee to include 21 members of the community. They decided to visit other new churches in the region and various architects. They also examined the size of the community, its church programs and finances. They had a fundraising dinner at the Hellenic Center with Archbishop Iakovos as the main speaker. Sizeable pledges were made at that event. Visits to all of the community members were made to raise funds and pledges. The previous experience the community had in fundraising for the Hellenic Center was a great help.

The committee finally recommended Mr. Tasso Katselas, of Pittsburgh, Pa., to be commissioned to design the new Church in August 1965. He presented plans, designs, pictures and a model of the new Church to the Community at a general meeting. The members of the Church approved the plans and designs. Then the Archdiocese gave its approval to the plans.

Several builders’ bids were beyond the Community’s budget. Along with the assistance of the architect, a builder was located who could meet the budget limits. With this suitable recommendation they voted to award the contract to Dwight Builders. On July 16, 1967, exactly 43 years after the first groundbreaking ceremony, the second groundbreaking took place. Later on October 8, 1967, when the walls were beginning to rise, the cornerstone was laid. Enclosed in the new cornerstone were appropriate letters from the Board President - Zanis Mavodones, Building Fund Chairman - Louis J. Kustas and several items from the original cornerstone. Rev. N. Soteropoulos presided with other area clergymen, Trustees and enthusiastic members of the Church community.

Rev. Rizos had been transferred to the Archdiocese after the plans and design of the new Church had been finalized. Rev. Nicholas Soteropoulos was assigned here in 1967 and presided over the above ceremonies. Father Nicholas Soteropoulos had great enthusiasm for the new Church. He could often be seen climbing and examining the highest parts of the roof.

Article dated on December 27, 1965 regarding the building of the new church on South Grand Avenue

In 1966 the Trustees purchased a new parish house near the site of the new Church. The old parish house on Academy St. was now used to accommodate the large Sunday school classes. The Sunday school classes were large enough to encircle the entire seated congregation at the old church.

Before leaving, Rev. Rizos had organized an instrumental and singing group that performed Greek folk songs, dances and narration for many organizations in the greater Poughkeepsie community. They were excellent ambassadors. The members of the group were: Zanis Mavodones-narrator, Peter Antonakos & Anthony Gerakopoulos-mandolins, Emily George-guitar, Harry Kehagioglou-bouzouki and Kiki Mavodones-accordion. Rev. Rizos brought the music, coached and directed the above participants. It was not all work and no play, however, during these planning days of the community, before the groundbreaking ceremony.

The church building fund committee and Rev. Soteropoulos raised large amounts of funds but these were not enough. Therefore, a 20-year mortgage was obtained from the Poughkeepsie Savings Bank to finish building the church. The new Church was built in a Contemporary Byzantine style. It had large barrel vaults over 30’ from the nave floor, seating capacity for 600 compared to 100 in the old Church, 8 classrooms and two offices. It had large semi-circular windows in the vaults of the ceiling and no windows in the sidewalls and an imposing area for the sanctuary. The choir was located in the front left of the nave, there was an atrium in the narthex area and a glassed-in infants’ room facing the nave. It was and is the most imposing Church in the Poughkeepsie area.

Ground Breaking Ceremony for the new church on South Grand Avenue (1967).1983 Hellenic Festival.  Back Row: Mia Pagones, Joanna Papastrat.  Front Row: Maria Garofalis, Stemi Gorman, cindy Sofokles, Amalia Pagones, Phoebe Pechewles.

In 1968, the Board of Trustees finally sold the Academy Street Church to a carpenters’ union. The board was now able to use this money towards the construction of the new church.

At last the Church was completed and the first religious services took place on May 16, 1968. His Grace Bishop Silas officiated at the “Thiranixia”, the Door Opening Ceremonies. He was assisted by Rev. N. Soteropoulos, Rev. Demetrios Frangos (Dean of St. Basil’s Academy) and Rev. Pitirim Stehanch of St. Gregory’s.

With the new Church and Hellenic Center, our community hosted the First Bi-annual Archdiocesan District Clergy-Laity Conference on May 1969. Representatives of 85 parishes attended the event from New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. The Conference was well managed by Rev. N. Soteropoulos. Shortly thereafter he was assigned to the Archdiocese for new duties. Rev. Steven Sarigianis was then assigned here from Bethlehem , Pennsylvania.