The Dreams of Our Forefathers:
A History of the Greek Orthodox Church
of Holy Trinity of Charleston, South Carolina

Compiled by Lucy Spell

Our history is typical of many Greek communities of immigrants who came together with a common cause to preserve their ethnic customs and to form a place of worship. The first wave of immigrants to appear in Charleston was during the early twentieth century although there were a few who came in the nineteenth century. Charleston's first Greek immigrant was Maria Garcia Turnbull who came to Charleston with her husband, Andrew Turnbull in 1781 after the failure of an effort to establish a permanent colony in New Smyrna, Florida. The immigrants who arrived in Charleston during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are the men and women who established businesses and became part of the Charleston community.

Our first church was built in 1911 at the
corner of Fishburne
and St. Philip streets.

In 1908 the first Greek Orthodox liturgy was performed in St. John's Episcopal Church at the corner of Amherst and Hanover Streets by the Reverend Arsenios David of Savannah, Georgia. After that services were held at a house at the corner of Calhoun and Coming Streets by the Reverend Ioachim George.

The Parthenon Society was established in 1909 and a year later the Grecian Society was established with seventy members for the express purpose of building a church. The Society purchased the property at St. Philip and Fishburne Streets and built the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church which was dedicated on March 25, 1911. The Reverend Ioachim George and the Reverend David of Savannah performed the first service in the church.

The years between 1911 and 1948 were a period of growth for the Charleston community. There were a total of sixteen parish priests with an average stay of two to three years.

As the parish grew, it became apparent that a community center was needed for the cultural, social, and philanthropic functions of the Greek community. Therefore, the property at 30 Race Street was bought in 1940 for a community center. The center was designed by Augustine Constantine and dedicated on September 28, 1941. The Reverend B. B. Karahalios was parish priest at that time.

With the gradual growth of the community, the parish outgrew the church on St. Philip Street and in 1951 laid a cornerstone for a new "Holy Trinity" church at 28 Race Street. Two years later, in 1953, the new church was dedicated. The foresight and effort of the leaders and parish members of that time produced the edifice in which we worship today. The Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity in Charleston is the first church in the United States in the authentic Byzantine style modeled after the Hagia Sophia of the Byzantine Empire. Mr Harold Tatum, in consultation with Archbishop Athenagoras, created the design for the Church, Iconostas and Alter.

The icons which distinguish our church were made by the world famous iconographer, Fotis Kontoglou, in Greece. The Iconostas was constructed by John W. Winterich and Associates, In. of Cleveland, Ohio and the Alter was made by George L. Payne Studios of Patterson N. J.

The hierography was not completed during the construction period of the church and in 1982, an associate of Mr. Kontoglou, John Terzis of Chicago, Illinois painted the icons above the Holy Altar titled "The Platytera" and "The Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah". In April of 1998, another associate of Mr. Kontoglou, Emmanuel Tzirtzilakis , restored the frescoes of the Platytera and the Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah.

In 1960 classrooms were built behind the Hellenic Center to accommodate our expanding community. Demetrios Liollio designed the school building as part of a major project for the Hellenic Center. In 1980 the Hellenic Center was renovated and in 1986 the Church grounds were landscaped by building the existing brick and wrought iron fence, paving the parking lot, and installing an irrigation system .

Throughout our major growth and expansion Father Nicholas Trivelas was parish priest. Father Trivelas began his duties in Charleston in May 1948 and retired in August 1993. More than one generation has benefited from his spiritual guidance.

Upon Father Trivelas retirement, Father George Savas was appointed as our parish priest. During Father Savas' three years' tenure, planning was initiated for the restoration of our church which had suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Construction began in August 1996 shortly after Father George Tsahakis was assigned to our parish. The renovation was completed in 1997 under the guidance of Jimmie Gianoukos, chairman, and Dinos Liollio, architect. Catherine Rogers, art conservator, restored the Kontoglou medallions and icons while preserving the integrity of the originals.

Mr. Emmanuel Tzirtzilakis, hierographer from Greece, was commissioned in 2001 to paint the hierography in the dome of the church. Included in the hierography will be the Pantocrator; first ring will be the Host of Angels-Archangels, Principalities, Powers, Thrones, Angels, Dominions,Cherubim and Seraphim;the second ring will represent the Divine Liturgy. The symbolism of the circle represents that Divine Sanctification is constant and infinite.

During the spring of 2002, Father John G. Panagiotou was assigned as Pastor of Holy Trinity Church. With his guidance we shall continue the establishment of a strong, spiritual community in order to perpetuate the dreams of our forefathers and to create a spiritual setting for future generations.

In this brief synopsis of our history, it is impossible to name the many parishioners who dedicated their energies toward establishing our church in Charleston, SC. To these pioneers we are grateful for their dedication, faith and foresight. Our appreciation extends to the present generation who is vigilant in preserving and improving upon the work which was started in the early 20th century.

For more information about Holy Trinity, contact the church directly: Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, 30 Race Street, Charleston, SC 29403 Phone: 843-577-2063. Holy Trinity falls under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Metropolis of Atlanta, a see within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Visit the website of the Archdiocese at or the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople at for more information about Orthodoxy. HCS also maintains an extensive, permanent archives on articles and releases about Orthodoxy; see our archival sections on Archdiocese and Metropolis of Atlanta at the URL

HCS readers can view other genealogical articles and releases in our extensive, permanent archives at the URL For more information about genealogical methodology, especially in researching Hellenic ancestry, see especially the main genealogy page or the section about Hellenic Historical and Genealogical Association at the URL

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