Celebrating 125 Years of Greek Heritage in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, founded in 1923. Wikimedia Commons, Attribution: Lee Paxton

The American Hellenic Foundation of Western Pennsylvania (AHFWPA) and the University of Pittsburgh are celebrating the 125th anniversary of the arrival of the first Greek immigrants to Pittsburgh.

The Greek community will celebrate their heritage throughout the month of December, with three events marking the momentous arrival of Greeks to the greater Pittsburgh area.

The celebration kicked off on December 2, with a commemorative concert at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral by the Byzantine Choir of the Metropolis of Pittsburgh.

On December 9, 2018, the mayor of Pittsburgh will make an official Proclamation of the 125th anniversary.

Completing the celebrations will be an exhibit at City Hall which commemorates the historic arrival and settlement of the Greeks in Pittsburgh. The exhibit will be open from December 29, 2018 to January 6, 2019.

The events all celebrate the important roles that Greeks have played in the development and betterment of Pittsburgh over more than a century.

It was 1893 when the first Greeks, numbering around 50 men, arrived in Pittsburgh. Although engaging in manual labor at first, they soon opened their own businesses. The men were then followed by a “pink wave” of women from Greece some fifteen years later.

It wasn’t long before Greeks became pillars of the community, opening a variety of family businesses such as restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries.

By 1905, the Greek community around the Pittsburgh area numbered approximately 3,000-4,000. At the peak of immigration, from 1910-1912, Greek immigrants came in record numbers  from the Aegean islands, Asia Minor, and the Greek mainland.

The number of Greek students enrolled in Pittsburgh schools at that time was the third highest in the United States, behind Chicago and New York.

Construction began on the city’s first Greek Orthodox churches in 1912. The imposing Saint Nicholas Cathedral, the cornerstone of the Greek Orthodox community in Pittsburgh, was built in 1923.