About Our Parish
As we celebrate the 91st Anniversary of the establishment of the Greek American Community of Atlantic City, we take this opportunity to briefly write its history.
Communicants of our faith came to America from various parts of Greece decades ago. It is certain that there were Greek immigrants in this city before 1900. They began to identify themselves as Greek Orthodox people sharing common goals and aspirations. Fueled by strong religious beliefs, they joined together to maintain and project their own spiritual and cultural values as Americans.
From 1900 on, as more Greeks came to Atlantic City, they brought their families and settled in the community. In the early part of the century, they formed a definite area around Belfield Avenue. One of their first activities was to open a coffee house at 35 S. Kentucky Avenue, around 1910 where it remained for many years. This coffee house provided a meeting place. About ten years later we found more Greek Americans well established in businesses. When war broke out, most of them enlisted and their businesses dissolved. After the war, however, those who had served their adopted country came back with more knowledge, with better experience and with a good understanding of whatever business they developed. For a long period, every small restaurant business in the area was either owned or managed by Greeks and they were successful!
On November 19, 1924 the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese called a meeting at the Odd Fellow Hall. They gave approval for the establishment of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church of Atlantic City. The state of New Jersey granted the charter. The name of St. Nicholas was chosen as he is the patron saint of sailors and the sea.
Services were conducted in a rented space in the Church of Ascension at Kentucky and Pacific Avenues. By early 1924 the liturgies were conducted on a monthly basis. In 1932 the opportunity presented itself to purchase a house at 13 S. Mt. Vernon Avenue. After holding a few services there, it was torn down so the new church could be built at that site. The corner stone was laid in 1933 and the church was finished. During that time, special events were held in the same building by drawing a large curtain and covering the altar to conceal it. As time passed the neighboring buildings and lots were bought from Tom Lake and the Vranas family. The following are the names of the members of the original committee: Nick Nikeas, Gus Stoicos, James Chewkanes, Theodore George Garanis, George Galso, Chris Banikiotis, John Troy, James Koliopoulos, George Kallinikos, Charles Nestor, Demetrios Haronis, Louis Thalasinos, George Stellas, Harry Peterson, William Scopis, George Kelloms, John Gorgolis, George Saridakis and Prodromos Prodromou. The history would not be complete without the mentioning of these people who were very important in the founding and early development of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church of Atlantic City: Moschos Moschides, James Peppas, George Andreadis, Anthony Speliotis, George Lambrakis, William Psaltakis, Thomas Chorlios, Nick Cripi, James Gianoupoulos, John Nash, Alex Xanides, George Spetsas, Edward Dingas, Harilsos Papasoteriou, George Pappaspirou, Charles Savaris.
Through the years, many priests have come and gone serving the various needs of the community. Not only did they provide spiritual guidance, but they were instrumental in developing the Greek Language School, Sunday school, choir and youth groups. In the meantime a Ladies Auxiliary was organized, known as "H Pistis". The ladies held bake sales, card parties and various other benefits to raise money for the church's needs. In 1929, another organization was established, the Ahepa known as Atlantic City Chapter #169. The community was growing and expanding. Then the "Grecian Maids" was organized in 1938 for one year, and then they became the Maids of Athens. Daughter of Penelope and Sons of Pericles followed shortly after.
In 1977, a progressive group of parishioners moved forward to building a St. Nicholas Community Hall on the site of the Olympic Hotel, formerly owned by Tom Lake. We now had classrooms for our Sunday and Greek Language Schools and our big celebrations were held in our own hall, beginning with the first dance, April 18, 1978.
After many years of discussions within the parish as to whether to move from Mt. Vernon Ave, to buy other properties in West Atlantic City, on Chelsea Avenue, on Pacific and North Carolina Avenue, in Ventnor Heights, and other locations, or to purchase the adjoining corner lot, we finally made the giant decision. We had been in negotiations with the City of Atlantic City and Green Acres of Trenton, New Jersey for over ten years and finally we purchased the lot at the corner of Mt. Vernon and Atlantic Avenue. The congregation voted to build there. The architectural plans were drawn, specifications were completed and we proceeded to obtain permits for the construction to begin. On December 6, 1999, we lived to see the dream of building a new magnificent Byzantine church on Atlantic Avenue. Dimitrios Mourlas, a famous iconographer from Athens, Greece was commissioned to prepare the iconography. The vibrant images of the saints and martyrs adorn the walls of St. Nicholas and enhance the spirituality of the congregation. The hand carved furnishings imported from Greece are indicative of the authentic Byzantine theme. In order to pay homage to those that came before us, the altar of the original church was preserved as the Chapel dedicated to Saints Raphael, Nicholas, Irene and St. Ephraim.
In 2009 on our 85th anniversary, the City of Atlantic City recognized the significant contribution of the Greek - American Community and St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. They honored the parish by changing the name of the street from Mt. Vernon Avenue to St. Nicholas Way. The Ordinance was introduced by Mr. John Schultz on March 11, 2009 and final approval by Mayor Lorenzo Langford and the City Council was on March 27th, 2009. The street naming ceremony occurred on May 10th, 2009.
The doors of St. Nicholas were opened by hard working Greek immigrants, who wanted to maintain their Orthodox faith and preserve their Greek heritage. They also welcomed their Orthodox brothers and sisters from other countries, such as Albania and Russia. We continue to follow their example. Today our congregants are not only from Greece but from Albania, Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Russia and Serbia.
Our progress has been strong and steady. We are eternally grateful to all the Clergy and Laity of our church, to our faithful who have fallen asleep in the Lord, to fellow parishioners and friends who share with us this milestone of our church's history - the 91st Anniversary of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church of Atlantic City.
*We wish to acknowledge Mrs. Sophia Nestor for her vision and for sight in documenting the history of our parish to 1975. May her memory be eternal.