Οn the occasion of today’s celebrations for the Three Holy Hierarchs, the patron saints of education and letters, the Greek language is being praised as a key component of the cultural heritage and identity carried by Greek migrants around the world.
Immigrants to the US have ranked the teaching of the Greek language as one of their top priorities ever since leaving Greece to look for new life prospects abroad. According to historic data, the first known Greek school to have ever been built in the US was in 1776 in St. Augustine, Florida.
The first Greeks to arrive to the Americas with the intent to settle there, came in 1768, founding what was called “New Smyrna.” They were led there by a Scottish doctor called Andrew Turnbull and his wife, Marica Gracia, the daughter of a Greek businessman from Ismir.
Years later, in the spring of 1776, Greek and other migrants began settling 70 miles to the north from the first towns, in today’s St. Augustine. There, carpenter Ioannis Yiannopoulos’ house served as the local school, with Yiannopoulos taking up the task of teaching the Greek language.
This historic house is still well-preserved and is a cultural attraction for everyone visiting the town, since it is the oldest recorded school ever built in the United States.