Documentation attests to the presence of Greeks in New Orleans from the mid-1700s. Miguel Dragon came to New Orleans as a Greek seaman from the Venetian Empire in 1766. Andrea Dimitry (original name was some form of Drussaki) arrived here before 1799 the year he married Dragon’s daughter, Marianne. Although it is highly probable there existed other Greeks in New Orleans who came here as seamen and maritime workers during the late 18th century, documents attest to this first Greek family’s children and grandchildren who became prominent community leaders in publishing, military, politics, education, and business.
At the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the French and Spanish populations of New Orleans were predominantly Roman Catholic. In a city with a rich mix of ethnicities, there were many Orthodox Christians from Greece, Balkan, Slavic and Middle Eastern nations also. Early 19th century city directories list Orthodox Christian owners of coffee shops, fish stores, liquor stores and fruit stands. Other Orthodox immigrants worked in the seafood industry in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes. Cotton and sugar merchants, real estate developers as well as insurance brokers were part of the Greek community in the 1800s.
Greek, Serbian, Croatian, Dalmatian, Romanian, Russian, Egyptian, Syrian and Lebanese Orthodox Christians probably solemnized their marriages, deaths, and baptisms in the Roman Catholic St. Louis Cathedral. This all changed in 1803 when inhabitants acquired the constitutional right to establish their own churches. Oral history reported by descendants of the Dragon and Dimitry family, informs us that family members attempted to create an Orthodox church soon after 1803 but did not have enough members and communication with the Church of Greece was difficult before the Greek Revolution.
Church Photo: According to Sacramental Journal entries, this photograph captures the Voulevich family from Dalmatia and the Gregoriou family from Mytilini, Lesvos on January 22, 1911 when the families baptized their babies. Archimandrite Paisios Ferentinos of Patmos was our priest from 1911 to 1926.
Furthermore, Holy Trinity oral history informs us that in the early 1860s, Mr. Nicholas Benachi and John Botassi, international merchants, local businessmen and Consuls of the Royal Government of Greece, spearheaded an effort to secure a site for the construction of an Orthodox Church, which was unsuccessful.
In 1864, Mr. Benachi of Chios, Greece offered his personal home at 2257 Bayou Road
for worship services. The establishment of our faith in America was becoming a reality when in March 1865, Father Agapius Honcharenko, a priest with the Russian Orthodox Mission in Athens, conducted an Orthodox service in the Episcopal Holy Trinity Chapel in New York. He was invited to New Orleans by Benachi to baptize approximately 30 individuals. Father Agapius did come to New Orleans and conducted Paschal services at St. Paul’s Protestant Episcopal Church in April
. He left us in June and while he was never designated our priest for this first New Orleans parish church, his presence probably instigated the Eastern Orthodox in 1865 to raise funds to build a church and secure a priest.
In 1866, the first Greek Orthodox Church of the Americas and a small cottage for the priest were built at 1222 N. Dorgenois Street in Treme, New Orleans. In 1867, Mr. Benachi sold this property to the Orthodox Community for $1,200. Constantine Anastasiades and Constantine Kililis both of Turkey, Michael Draskovich of Herzegovina, Nicholas Benachi of Chios, Greece and Demetrios Botassi and John Botassi of Spetses, Greece assisted with generous personal donations and solicited donations from the Orthodox residents. The 18th century connection with the first Greek Orthodox church in the Americas was manifested with the Dragon/Dimitry family’s financial support. The document that formalized the fundraising efforts to build an Orthodox church and the sale document that provided the land for this first Greek Orthodox church can be viewed here.
December 1867, Archimandrite Stefanos Andreadis, the first priest of the first Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas, The Eastern Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, arrived in New Orleans from Syros, Greece his appointment approved by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece. Father Andreadis gave a spirited homily during his Christmas service which you can read in English or Russian. Holy Trinity was under the jurisdiction of the Holy Synod of Greece until 1880 when we came under the jurisdiction and authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, His Eminence Joachim III.
Later additions to the complex included a parish house, and a small library. A Greek and English school was started. In 1920 the Eastern Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, was rechartered as the Hellenic Orthodox Church. The church family grew considerably with the wave of immigrants coming to America throughout the early 20th century. Tulane Geographer Richard Campanella published a map of the Holy Trinity neighborhood that captures Orthodox residents in 1930. See his map here.
The original Holy Trinity church was replaced in 1950 with a brick cathedral when we became the headquarters of a diocese with an assigned bishop, His Grace Bishop Silas. The cathedral was purchased by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in 1976 when Holy Trinity moved to 1200 Allen Toussaint Boulevard with a membership of approximately 350 families that represents the full spectrum of Orthodox Christianity.