Greeks have been in Kingston since the turn of the 20th century. The first Greeks in Kingston consisted of a few close-knit families who held gatherings for holidays and other special occasions, attending church services at St. George’s Cathedral. The Greeks in Kingston would not have their own church, nor receive their charter to become an official Greek Community, until the 1960’s. Many were business owners, dominating Kingston’s Princess Street with Greek-owned restaurants, candy shops, and ice cream parlors throughout the 1920’s and 30’s. Many were involved in the Hellenic organizations of AHEPA and the Daughters of Penelope.
The end of World War II and the end of Greece’s Civil War, accompanied by Canada’s more liberal immigration policies at the time, brought about Canada’s largest wave of Greek immigration in the 1950’s-1960’s. Kingston saw a large increase in the population of Greeks at this time. With their famous entrepreneurial spirit, many also went on to own businesses – as the typical Greek-Canadian immigration tale goes, many arrived with “nothing in their pocket” and worked their way up to success through hard work and dedication.
Along with the increase in Kingston’s Greek population came its demand for an official community and a church. It was in 1961 that a group of dedicated Greeks in Kingston – including, among others, George Speal, Chris Zakos, Frank Karis, Chris Nikas, and Louis Leos – approached the Bishop in Toronto with a request to organize themselves under their own community charter. That year, the Archbishop Athenagoras visited Kingston to help the Greeks establish their community. Our own church was established in 1963. It had been an old Baptist Church, which the community worked hard to renovate until it was transformed into an Orthodox church. Our church is titled “Koimisis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church”, and is located at 121 Johnson Street.
Since its establishment, it has hosted Greek School, Sunday School, many weddings, baptisms, holidays, and special occasions, services every Sunday, Greek dance classes, Philoptohos meetings, GOYA (Greek Orthodox Youth Association) meetings, and even Folklore (an important cultural event in Kingston during the 1970s-1990s). Now, our community is comprised of more than 300 families.
This is a multi-media tour, including photos, videos, maps, and audio clips. This is by no means meant to present a full picture of our community’s history. We were able to include the perspectives and stories of 26 narrators from the community in this project, and we know many stories have yet to be heard.
This has been written according to data acquired from interviews with our narrators, archives provided by our narrators, external references, and other archival data such as local newspapers. Much of this history is based on the memories of our community members, and while we have tried our best to double-check and cross-reference information for factual accuracy, it cannot be entirely guaranteed. The history of our community in Kingston, as written here, spans from the 1910’s until the present day.
Funding for this project was graciously provided by the Kingston Heritage Fund Project Grant (Kingston Association of Museums (KAM) and the City of Kingston). The Kingston Greek History Project is comprised of George Katinas (Project Lead), Paula Antonakos Boswell (KGHP Community Lead), and Angeline Antonakos Boswell (Researcher), all three of whom have dedicated themselves to acquiring the data for this project. It was completed in January 2019.
We collected interviews and archives from the following 26 Greek Community members for this project: Afro Ioannidis, Andreas and Cleo Frantzeskos, Fr. Matthew and Catherine Penney, Fr. Chrysostomos Achilleos, Fil Menikefs, George Katinas, Paula Antonakos, Glykeria Martou, John Karkoulis, Maria Triada Karkoulis, Manos Tryfonopoulos, Margaret Zakos, Peggy Geracimo, Maria Karis Brousalis, Mike Kanellos, Olga Xenodohidou, Peter Fountas, Spiro and Maureen Sakell, Chris Nikas, Toula Leos, Pandelis and Voula Bettas, and Voula Stathopoulos (not all of whom are photographed below).
This walking tour of our community looks at the following themes, each accompanied by a particular location significant to our community on a map of Kingston.
- Immigration Pre-WWII
- Immigration Post-WWII
- Work and Businesses
- The Greek Orthodox Church
- The Church as the Center of the Community
- Greek Culture Upkeep Among Greek Canadians
- Weddings, Ceremonies, and our Pre-Church History
- Greekhood and the Future of Hellenism
- Community Organization
- Life Stories