Greeks had already settled and opened their own businesses in the city of Oakland and its vicinity in the 1890s, with some earlier evidence as well.
Until 1905, the early settlers would take the ferry boat westward across the bay to Orthodox Church services in San Francisco or they would invite an Orthodox priest to come across to the East Bay to visit them:
In 1867, the “Greek Russian Slavonian Orthodox Eastern Church and Benevolent Society” had been incorporated in San Francisco; and the faithful were served reportedly by Orthodox chaplains of ships anchored in the bay.
In 1872, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was established by Russian imperial patronage in San Francisco as the new cathedral of the Russian diocese of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska.
In 1905, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity church was built in San Francisco by the increasing number of Greek settlers in the Bay Area; and Greek Orthodox clergy were assigned permanently.
By 1914, Greeks with Syrians (and Lebanese) were celebrating the Divine Liturgy in a rented hall in Oakland with a priest coming across the bay from San Francisco to officiate.
“The Hellenic Community of Oakland and Vicinity” was formally chartered by the State of California on February 16, 1917.
Original Church Building
Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption (Dormition)
Dedication of the Original Church Building
Four years later, on May 21, 1921, Oakland’s Greek Orthodox Church — the first in the East Bay area — was dedicated with more than 250 people in attendance It was dedicated to the Koimisis (the Dormition of the Mother of God).
Photo from the dedication, 1921.
The Adamantios Koraes Hall, built in part by volunteer labor in 1932, served as a community center and provided space for classrooms.
The original parish Church of the Dormition
Eventually, the community outgrew these facilities in downtown Oakland. The original property and building were sold in 1960, in favor of the site of our new church building, which was constructed in the Oakland hills and is dedicated to the Analypsis (the Ascension of Our Savior).
Preserving the Original Church Building
Slated for demolition in 1976 to make way for an interstate highway, the church building was rescued by a very small group of dedicated individuals.
The same very few people would later establish the Ascension Historical Society.
They found that the old church building met the national and state criteria for architectural and cultural significance. They were able, therefore, to have it listed on both the U.S.A. National Register and the California State Register as an Historical Landmark. They were also able to have the building moved by the California Transportation Commission for preservation.
So, the old church building still stands in its original form in Oakland. It stands today as a memorial to those pioneers who established our community, a monument to their contributions, a beacon reflecting their aspirations.
Newer Church Complex
Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension
The doors of our magnificent new edifice, the Church of the Ascension, were opened on December 11, 1960.
This new building is known for its architectural merit, blending stunning modern elements and secure traditional designs. Our education building was constructed at the same time as the new church-edifice and continues to meet many of the religious educational needs of the community. It also met the social needs of the community until 1976, when our community center was completed.
The parish was elevated to the status of cathedral in February 1992.
The plan of our facilities was substantially altered by the addition of a new Parking Pavilion (finished in 2007) and the Koimisis Chapel (still incomplete).
View of Ascension Cathedral (left) and Koimisis Chapel (right)
The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension has evolved from a predominantly immigrant society into one that now spans six generations. It entered the new millennium as a vibrant and diversified community. The 90th Anniversary of our parish community was celebrated November 30th, 2007.