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by Rev. Fr. Nicholas Nikokavouras, Dean Emeritus
The Annunciation Cathedral of Chicago was established in 1892 by a group of people who had emigrated from Laconia and some of the Greek Islands. The community first rented a hall on Randolph near Union Street and asked the Holy Synod of Athens for a priest. Fr. Panagiotis of Ithaca was signed as the first priest and in March of 1892 the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated.
The Greek community later rented a Masonic Temple on Kinzie near Clark, a more suitable location for worship. 1893 saw the first archieratical liturgy celebrated at the church when Bishop Dionysios Latas from Zakinthos visited America as a representative to the World's Columbian Exposition. After Fr. Phiambolis in 1899, two other priests continued to serve the Annunciation, Fr. Nectarios Mavrokordatos and Fr. Theodoros Prousianos.
In 1909 the community purchased the lot on which the Cathedral stands today from the estate of Dr. Edward Charles Henrotin at a cost of $18,000.
1910 saw the completion of the Cathedral at an estimated cost of $100,000. It was modeled after a Cathedral in Athens and today stands as the oldest surviving building in Chicago constructed as a Byzantine church.
In those years the Annunciation church was served by Fr. Constantinos Nicoletopoulos and was succeeded by Frs. Hariton Panagopoulos and Constantinos Hadzidemietriou.
In 1927, under the spiritual leadership of Fr. Niketas Kesses, the Annunciation community purchased land on the North side of Chicago to build the Solon Greek School and a chapel which was dedicated to St. Demetrios. Gradually this small chapel became the St. Demetrios Church which is still found at 2727 W. Winona today. Fr. Niketas Kesses served the church with great zeal and dedication for 44 years.
During the Great Depression the community rallied to save the churches and massive fundraising activities were inaugurated to reduce the burdensome indebtedness. Also in 1930, due to the widening of La Salle Blvd., the entire church building was lifted off its foundation and moved back. In October of 1933, the Annunciation Community hosted the 5th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress.
In 1940 the two churches were renamed the United Greek Orthodox Churches of Chicago, the Annunciation – St. Demetrios.
1942 saw the Annunciation named as the Cathedral of the Second Archdiocesan District by His Eminence, Archbishop Athenagoras who subsequently because the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. The first national conference of the youth of the Archdiocese was held in Chicago in 1951 and the Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Cathedral by Archbishop Michael.
In 1971 Fr. George Economou came to the Cathedral and served it as parish priest for one year. Various priests from St. Demetrios served.
In 1973 Fr. Nicholas Nikokavouras of Corfu was assigned to the Cathedral by His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos and serves as Dean Emeritus today.
In 1977 the renovation of the Cathedral was begun. The iconography of the dome was completed in 1981 by the iconographer Stathis Trahanatzis, who returned in 1990 to complete the four evangelists on the pendentives and the Platyera located in the Apse of the Sanctuary.
In 1983 the Annunciation Cathedral and St. Demetrios were separated into two communities.
In 1990 the Cathedral was honored by the presence of our late Patriarch Demetrios I who greeted and blessed the children of the entire diocese.
In 1992 the community of the Annunciation Cathedral celebrated its hundredth anniversary of Orthodoxy in the City of Chicago. This is a golden page in the history of this community and brings honor to the Greek immigrants who brought and spread the Greek Orthodox Faith to this great land. Fr. Demetri Kantzavelos was appointed assistant priest of the Cathedral in 1992.
On January 1, 2015, His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago appointed Fr. Stamatios G. Sfikas as Dean of the Annunciation Cathedral.
The Annunciation also has the traditional stasithia which were used for seating the elderly. The community today has some 400 families who with zeal and dedication support the Cathedral to continue its rich spiritual mission throughout the next century and be the beacon of Orthodoxy in the Metropolis of Chicago.