The ANNUNCIATION GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH, the first Greek Orthodox Church established in Cleveland, formed the basis for all subsequent congregations. It originated in the Pan-Hellenic Union, which first worshipped in 1910. Immigrant GREEKS who came to Cleveland between 1894-1912 participated in the liturgy of the Greek Orthodox Church sporadically, whenever itinerant priests conducted services in coffeehouses, in communal apartments along Bolivar Rd., or in ST. THEODOSIUS RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CATHEDRAL. Organizing as a formal society, the Pan-Hellenic Union engaged the services of Fr. George Scarpas, who commuted from Pittsburgh once a month. The first regular service was conducted on Christmas Eve, in a hall above a movie house at Ontario and Bolivar streets. By 1912 the society had collected $12,000 and purchased a home on the corner of W. 14th St. and Fairfield Ave. Services were held there for over 2 years, after which they moved back downtown to Arch Hall (E. 4th and Ontario). With the arrival of more immigrants, the congregation began to construct a church on the Fairfield site. The Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, although not completed, became the sanctuary for the liturgy in 1919. In 1924 Fr. John Zografos became pastor. During his 4-year tenure, Fr. Zografos painted all 85 icons within the church, and the first Greek school was established. In 1930 Fr. Chrysogonos Lavriotis became pastor, serving until the mid-1950s. From the 1930s, when the church mortgage was saved from foreclosure by the intervention of Antony Hoty, to the postwar years, when the church was overcrowded with parishioners, Fr. Lavriotis provided strong leadership.
With members moving to the SUBURBS, the demand for more churches grew. SS. Constantine & Helen was built in CLEVELAND HTS. (1956) and St. Demetrios in ROCKY RIVER (1962). All 3 churches functioned as a single entity, the American-Hellenic Community of Greater Cleveland, and operated under a common state charter until 1967, when each became autonomous. Priests circulated among the churches between the early 1950s and 1967. That year Fr. John Protopapas assumed the pastorate of Annunciation Church. During his long tenure the church grew, maintaining its central position among area Greek Orthodox churches. Starting in 1993, the Hellenic Preservation Society of Northeastern Ohio began restoring 30 of Zografos's icons, rescued from the church's attic. In 1995 membership for the 3 churches was around 1,600.
See also RELIGION; EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCHES.