The rich history behind Dayton’s beautiful Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church

The Dayton Greek Festival marks 60 years


Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, a Dayton landmark, serves as tribute to the city’s rich Greek history.

Chris Politz and Thomas Caroompas are believed to be the first Greeks to move to Dayton in 1880, less than two decades after the first Greek Orthodox Church was established in the United States in Galveston, Texas.

They were followed by Charles Zonars and Harry Chakeres and other young immigrants in 1903 seeking a new life and paving the way for a new community. By 1910, there were more than 15 Greek families in Dayton.

>> PREVIEW: Everything you need to know about Dayton Greek Festival 2018

>> 60 reasons to love the Dayton Greek Festival

The new residents — bound together by language, customs and religious traditions — were devoted to worshipping together in the Orthodox tradition.

Traveling priests, paid by donations, held services in various downtown spaces before 65 Greek families were able to raise $5,000 in 1921 for a down payment on a one-story white wood Protestant church at 15 S. Robert Blvd.

>> How to get a Greek Festival lunch to go

Decades of growth within the community called for a home of their own. The congregation picked out 3½ acres of land overlooking the Great Miami River at 500 Belmonte Park North and purchased it for just over $34,000 in 1945.

More than 275 families attended a groundbreaking in 1948 for the church’s new hill top location. In the fall of 1951 the brick building with a copper dome officially opened before the interior was finished. It was completed in 1955.

A story in the Dayton Daily News written in 1964 described the setting and the design of the building.

“The church sits on a hill north of the Art Institute. Below are the rooftops of a modern city and inside the church the viewer can easily imagine himself transported back to the 15th century when church architecture reached a new magnificence with its blending of Easter splendor and Christian art.

Objects and paintings of breath-taking beauty adorn the church. Designed in the shape of a Greek cross it is of authentic Byzantine architecture and is unique in Dayton.”

That description, written more than 50 years ago, is still befitting today.

Parishioners worship in a nave filled with 54 painted icons detailed in 14 karat gold and illuminated by crystal chandeliers. Over 40 stained glass windows highlight the imported marble and plaster interior.

“The neat thing about it is it puts you in the right environment to pray,” Evanthia Valassiades of Kettering, a life-long member of the church, said in a 2016 interview. “When you come into our church you see the story of Christ, you hear the priest chanting and you hear the music from the choir. You can pray any place but when you are there it’s different. It lifts you up.”

Today, just days ahead of the 58th annual Greek Festival, almost 400 families attend the church considered to be the heart of Greek life.

“It’s our second family,” said Valassiades. “When kids move away we tell them, ‘Go find the Greek church — it will be almost like home. The traditions and the warmth are the same. It’s our second home.”

»»7 crave-worthy Dayton food festivals that will take you around the world

WANT TO GO?

What: The 60th annual Greek Festival 

Where: Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 500 Belmonte Park North.

Hours: Sept. 7 and 8, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sept. 9, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Admission: Free Friday Sept. 7 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. After that time and for the rest of the weekend admission is $2. Children 12 and under and active and retired military are free.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

La-Z-Boy drive brings 748 donations, $4,500 worth to Ronald McDonald House Charities
La-Z-Boy drive brings 748 donations, $4,500 worth to Ronald McDonald House Charities

A regional La-Z-Boy drive collected over $4,500 worth of household and pantry items for Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Dayton, according to a release. La-Z-Boy stores from around the region, along with two pubs, came together as a community to collect  748 donations. These donations included items such as paper plates, individuals...
Sororities at George Mason University reject woman with Down syndrome
Sororities at George Mason University reject woman with Down syndrome

An Indiana woman with Down syndrome was not accepted to any sororities at George Mason University because of her disability, her sister claimed. >> Read more trending news  AnnCatherine Heigl, a sophomore from Zionsville, was the first person from Indiana to be accepted to the university’s LIFE program -- a full-time program for people...
Man accused of walking too close to Old Faithful arrested in Cheyenne
Man accused of walking too close to Old Faithful arrested in Cheyenne

A Colorado man accused of walking too close to the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park last week faces more charges after he led police on a chase in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the Billings Gazette reported. >> Read more trending news  Gabriel Villalva, 27, of Greeley, Colorado, was arrested in Wyoming’s capital city Wednesday...
Help Fairborn police identity robbery suspect
Help Fairborn police identity robbery suspect

Fairborn police are asking for the public’s help to identify a robbery suspect from an incident that occurred on Aug. 13. The suspect has facial hair and was possibly driving a silver Nissan Altima. Anyone with information about the suspect or incident, please call the Fairborn Police Department at 937-754-3000.
Cash bond set at $10,000 for Piqua man charged with sex offenses against minor
Cash bond set at $10,000 for Piqua man charged with sex offenses against minor

A Piqua man entered pleas of not guilty Friday morning to charges of disseminating matter harmful to a juvenile and importuning involving a Piqua juvenile younger than 16. Ryan M. Draving, 33, was arraigned via video from the Miami County Jail in Miami County Municipal.  The incident reportedly happened on Sept.19 in Piqua.  Judge Gary Nasal...
More Stories