History of St. Nicholas Wilmington


During the early part of the twentieth century Greeks of the Orthodox faith began to settle in Wilmington while looking for a better life for their families and themselves. They took any job they could find upon arrival. By working long and hard they soon began their own businesses which included candy and confectionery stores, ice cream shops, hat cleaners, shoe shine parlors, and cafes. 

During the twenties and thirties as more Greeks came to Wilmington they began to take actions to benefit the group as a whole. Their love of the Greek language and their religion led them to form an organization headed by elected officers. This loose organization made arrangements to bring in an Orthodox priest, usually from Raleigh, North Carolina, to hold church services at the Episcopal Church at Third and Red Cross Streets a number of times each year. They also made arrangements to hire a Greek language teacher so their children could learn to read and write Greek. With time, the organization became stronger due to the necessity of having to collect funds to pay visiting priests and maintain a Greek language school on a continuing basis.

With the arrival of many new families during the late thirties and forties the Greek Orthodox community began to consider building a church served by a permanent priest. The leaders of the community began to raise funds, find a location, and plan the building. It all came together in 1943 when the Board of Trustees, having collected the funds, found a location and let the contract to construct a Greek Orthodox Church at Second and Orange Streets in November of that year. The building was completed in 1945 with the laying of the Cornerstone taking place August 31, 1945.

Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church opened its doors to the congregation in June of 1945 with Father Efthemios Papazisis officiating. The same year the church purchased a two-story home next door to the church building. The first floor housed school rooms while the second floor served as a home for the priest and his family. Father Papazisis received his first check for $225 paying him for the month.

The building at Second and Orange Streets served the Greek community for many years. As the membership grew and the members prospered so did the Church. However, it became evident the building at Second and Orange would soon be too small for the congregation.

The Second and Orange property was sold to Saint Johns Museum of Art in 1979 and the current site on South College Road was purchased on October 15, 1980. The purchase included an existing building with a church sanctuary, school rooms, a large activity hall, and adequate parking facilities.

Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church has grown so that it now serves the spiritual needs of more than 200 families. From Wilmington, the church serves Southport, Whiteville, Jacksonville, New Bern, Morehead City, Surf City, Emerald Isle, and other small communities in the area. It operates a Sunday School, Greek School and Nursery. The church organization sponsors various organizations to serve the needs of its adults, young adults, children and others.

The members of Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church of Wilmington look forward to the future and to the challenges ahead.

Jerry Barkas

Past Parish Council President

Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Wilmington NC