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Church

The History of All Saints Parish in Weirton, West Virginia

October 31, 2021

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on October 27 visited the All-Saints parish in Weirton, West Virginia after the blessing of the Evyenia’s House of Hope, a gift of Michael Psaros to his hometown.

The All-Saints parish, once a vibrant parish in the very heart of America’s steel industry, has a unique history.

The story of All Saints Greek Orthodox Church in Weirton would not be complete without a brief word about the Weirton Steel Company and the city of Weirton itself. The following information has been excerpted from church historical records.

The business which grew up to become Weirton Steel Company began in 1905 as a small tin plate mill in Clarksburg, WV. Several major misfortunes in 1907 including the financial panic, caused the tin mill’s founders to give considerable thought to their new venture. With diligence and hard work, Ernest T. Weir and J. R. Phillips took the Clarksburg tin mill and turned it into a major unit of the country’s fifth largest steel producer at the time – National Steel Corporation. Beginning as the Phillips Sheet and Tin Plate Company, the untimely death of Phillips put the company into the hands of Weir.

The idea of Weirton Steel was born, in Clarksburg, WV. Within a few years, the original tin mill was outgrowing its surroundings now that it was a fully integrated steel company with a wide range of finished products. Increased growth and limited space forced the company to consider a new location. In 1909 Weir himself finally selected the site on the Ohio River at what is now Weirton, WV. A new plant with 10 hot mills and finishing facilities was in operation before the end of the year. With the purchase of a tin mill in Steubenville in 1911 and later additions at Weirton, the Company became the largest independent producer of tin plate. Along with associates including J. C. Williams who became president of the Company, Weir started the long-planned steps toward integrated steel production.

In 1918 the first stage of this program was completed and the name of the company was officially changed to Weirton Steel Company on August 1, Weir’s birthday. From 1909 until 1947, Weirton, WV, became the largest unincorporated city in America. On July 1, 1947, Weirton and her sister cities, Holidays Cove, Weirton Heights, and Marland Heights were consolidated into one municipality, becoming the fourth largest city in the State of West Virginia at that time.

Rev. Protopresbyter Frank Milanese and members of the parish of All Saints Greek Orthodox Church in Weirton, WV greet His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, Metropolitan Savas and the Official Delegation followed by Doxology and a Luncheon. (Photo by GOA/D. Panagos)

HISTORY OF ALL SAINTS CHURCH

In 1915, a group of Greek immigrants discussed plans with J. C. Williams, president of the Weirton Steel Company, for the possible construction of a church. This man of foresight and wisdom felt that these men and woman who had streamed into a strange land from the meager hillsides of Greece needed a place to worship God in their own way. Morally and financially, he assisted them in the purchase of a lot on Avenue A. In the early Spring of 1916 the cornerstone was laid and construction began. A building committee was then formed. This committee, with the aid of the Greek population, worked diligently in every way possible to complete the church.

Until the first Greek Orthodox Church was built, religious services were held in halls and private homes. According to archived records at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the very first of these religious services was the Divine Liturgy of the Nativity of Christ on December 25, 2016. The church was officially established in 1917.

With the building nearly completed, elections were held and a parish council was elected. On the 25th day of March, 1918, a Greek religious and national holiday, the first church services were held with the Reverend Father Neophitos Iosafeos officiating. Father Iosafeos was also an iconographer (a religious painter) who slept in the church while working on the icons at All Saints. These Icons are still in use by the church and can be seen on the Icon Screen at the front of the church.

Two years later a Greek parochial school was established. In the course of the next 28 years the Greek people became an integral part of the rapidly-growing community. They took an active part in the civic life of the town, many of them establishing businesses. All were determined that one day a bigger and better church would be built as an offering to their Creator for his manifold blessings.

This dream began to materialize when, at a general meeting in the Fall of 1944, a discussion was held respecting tentative plans for a new church. Alexander Bellas pledged a donation of all the exterior brick, and Nicholas G Anas made a $6,000 donation, thereby launching the building fund drive. These initial acts aroused the enthusiasm of the people and donations and pledges were immediately forthcoming.

From January, 1945 through May, 1947, land was purchased on West Street, a New Building Committee was formed, and plans and blueprints were presented for a church of Byzantine type architecture, modeling the church of Saint Sophia in Constantinople. Shortly afterwards work was begun on the structure.

The Byzantine style of the church was comparatively new to the American continent. The dome was originally of burnished copper and the windows which lined the church were stained glass. The church, which was and one of the most outstanding in the Tri-State area, served greater Weirton, Follansbee, Wellsburg, and New Cumberland, WV. In addition to the church itself, school and office rooms were included in the original structure.

In 1956, Constantine Triantafillou, a graduate of the Art School of the Polytechnic Institute of Athens, Greece, and a recognized iconographer, artist, and decorator, was contracted to decorate the interior of the church. The entire interior was done in accordance with the dictates of Byzantine tradition. The symmetrical and graceful lines, the domes and wide areas of space, and the intricate ornamental plaster, coupled with the exceptional ability of the artist, joined in creating the dignified splendor so prevalent in the church today.

In 1967, the parish undertook a remodeling project on a large scale. Exterior renovation with stainless steel was done (the dome and bell towers), the interior of the church was repainted, the icons were retouched, and new electrical equipment and plumbing were installed. A point of special pride to the Hellenes of the area is the fact that the All Saints Church of Weirton is the only church in the United States with a stainless steel dome and bell towers highlighting its structure. The steel is symbolic of the strength of the faith which the Greek people of Weirton have in their Creator. It also symbolizes their belief in the future – for just as the steel of the church will continue to endure, so shall endure the strength of the Greek Orthodox faith.

In 2003, the All Saints community undertook a major renovation project to “preserve the legacy of our parents and grandparents,” which included the cleaning of the stainless steel, installing new roofing material on all the roofs (12 separate ones in all), restoring the brick and precast stone, restoring the front steps and entrance ramp, replacing the front entrance and doors, and repairing deteriorated plaster on the interior of the church. The project work was completed in May, 2004, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Having thus completed this major renovation, the parish has now established an 10-year maintenance fund to enable the ongoing maintenance of the physical structure of the church.

In 2003, after an initial inspection of the church structure, additional contractors were brought in to examine other areas of the physical building. When all was inspected, seven areas of need were identified. The total scope of the project was estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Over the course of the next three years, these areas were addressed and corrected.

In 2008, the interior of the church was addressed, specifically the Nave. The dome interior was cleaned, the dome stained glass windows were restored and reframed, the protective glass over the dome stained glass windows was replaced, chandeliers were either replaced or refurbished as warranted, walls were patched and repainted, and other interior repairs were made.

In 2010, plans were developed to pave the parking area to the right of the church. The former gravel lot could not accommodate the growing parking needs of the parish. In 2011, construction began and included a new drainage system, parking area, updated entry way and sidewalks to the office entry door, and new lighting. Completed late in the year, the new parking lot has added much needed parking space and has made entry into the church much easier for parishioners and visitors alike.

Most recently in 2012, the kitchen has received a new stove and four convection ovens, and plans are underway to renovate other areas of the church needing attention.

“All this work has been accomplished through the generosity of parishioners and friends of All Saints Church who love God’s House and want to see it serve many generations yet to come. We hope you will be inspired to come and take a tour of our facility,” declares a statement by the parish.

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