St. Demetrios has a long history of over 50 years. It’s unique community and design of the current structure was the dream of a few faithful that built the foundation spiritually and physically years ago.
Flourishing communities of today always hide an interesting beginning. Here are the words of Mrs. Vickly Tsiantar, one of our parishioners, as she recalls those first days, when a few motivated individuals envisioned the establishment of a Greek Orthodox Community.
“In 1946 we were only a handful of Greek families in the area of Ft. Lauderdale, We had a hotel on the beach where everyone used to gather, as more families resided here. During the year 1953, a lawyer named Duke Jordan and some other Greeks were contemplating the idea of approaching the Archdiocese to start a community. They were told they needed the minimum of 75 families, far beyond the existing ones at that time. So, they decided to establish an AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) Chapter.
The need for a church was very intense. Elizabeth Athanasakos, a young attorney, and a handful of other individuals were instrumental in establishing the Greek Orthodox Church of Broward County. On January 11, 1959 the church was incorporated and a charter was granted from the Archdiocese on December 31. 1960. A 4 ½ acre property was purchased on Riverland Road in Ft. Lauderdale on September 16, 1960 in a small vacant store given to us by the Food Fair Store on Route 441. Fr.Angelides, a retired priest from Daytona, was the first priest and Mrs. Helen Nichols the first Choir Director who led the choir with a piano.
This is where the ladies first organized themselves as a Philoptochos Chapter under the presidency of Mrs. Melts. This is where Mr. James Bizas, a carpenter-wood carver, placed the first Icon Screen , the same one that was used even in this church before the existing one was made possible. Later, Fr. Nestorides fr om Chicago served this community.
In 1963, with the help of the great benefactor Mr. Charles DeSerras, the proceeds of the sale of the lot on Riverland Road, and donations of about 20 donors, a small church with a small community center were purchased on today’s grounds. Our priest was Fr. George Kalangis. On September 14th we all celebrated the opening of our Church, named St. Demetrios by Mr. DeSerras.
On January 18, 1964 we had our Premier Ball at Pier 66 Yacht Club and the first album has pictures of our basic Church organizations including Junior GOYA. In 1964, with the encouragement of Fr. Kalangis, we began the Greek School where I taught for many years.
Fr. Nick Paleologos was with us for a few months and then came Fr. Nicholas Nick, who served our Community for many years. Under his ministry, the new St. Demetrios Church was built, which opened on January 17, 1988. After his retirement, for a while Fr. Gus Chokanis and then Fr. Christopher Metropulos became our priests. During Fr. Metropulos’years we have seen our Community grown in numbers and in stature.
It was truly the dream of a few beginners. Today, through the efforts and support of many individuals, we are a flourishing community with over 400 families as active members.
The architectural design of St. Demetrios is based on Byzantine themes and reflects the strong heritage and traditions of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.It is laid out in the simple form of a Byzantine cross, all arms equal. The geometric framework of this plan suggests a cross within a cross. Above the intersection of the arms of the cross is a dome, rising over 50 feet above the floor, spanning 72 feet in diameter and weighing 215 tons, is symbolizes the Dome of Heaven, The dome rests on twelve columns, dedicated to the twelve Apostles.Surrounding the exterior structure, at the intersection of each cross arm are eight towers which are dedicated to an Old Testament Prophet, the tallest tower being the bell tower.The Church’s interior design and ecclesiastical adornments also reflect the historical continuity with the sacred traditions of early Christianity.