PARISH PROFILE: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Atlantic City, New Jersey

This profile was published in the July-August, 1998 Orthodox Observer, and can be read in full online -

PARISH PROFILE:  St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church

LOCATION:  Atlantic City, New Jersey

FOUNDED:  1924

St. Nicholas Church is at the "center of the action" in this city of 40,000, on which the popular board game Monopoly is based.  "We're in the middle of the casinos," remarked Fr. Nikas, who has served the parish eight years.

He said that about 80 percent of his parishioners come from Greece, and that "80 percent work in the casinos, but they don't like what they see, "The priest describes his community as "very conservative."  Most of the immigrants hail from northwestern Macedonia and the island of Chios. . . . . 

Although the church was established in 1924, only two years after the founding of the Archdiocese, the Greek Orthodox presence in Atlantic City originated before 1900, according to a historical article by Sophie Nestor.

Mrs. Nestor is the daughter of Prodromos Prodromou, a former parish president (1932-33) under whose administration the community built the existing church.

A key factor that accounts the original presence of the Greek community is the tourist industry.

Along the Boardwalk

A hundred years before the first casinos opened in 1978, the 5-mile-long Boardwalk and its amusement piers was a tourist attraction.  The pioneer Greek settlers came in the late 19th century and worked as peddlers, and its restaurants as dishwashers, cooks and busboys.  Many years later, by the early '20s, every small restaurant in the city was Greek-owned or managed, many along or near the Boardwalk.  

More families arrived after 1900.  According to Mrs. Nestor's article, by 1910 they established a coffee house on Kentucky Avenue that served as a meeting place for many years.

In the early 1920s, community leaders began efforts to form a permanent Greek Orthodox parish.  a meeting with Archdiocese representatives at the Odd Fellows Hall on Nov. 19, 1924, resulted in the community receiving approval to establish a parish.  The first priest was Fr. Georgiou Dougekos, who served from 1924-26.

Establishing the church's presence since then almost reads like a trip around a Monopoly game board.  Services first took place on a monthly basis in rented space at the Roman Catholic Church of the Ascension on Kentucky and Pacific avenues.  In 1932, the community purchased the house on nearby Mt. Vernon Avenue for $6,000 and build its first church.

Years later . . . .