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Politics

The Legacy of a Man and a Schoolhouse

March 5, 2020

AUGUSTINE, FL – On Saturday, March 7, the Federation of Hellenic-American Educators and the Pan Arcadian Association, in collaboration with the Association O Geros Tou Morea of New York and other organizations, will host the third historic event in memory of Juan Genopoly (Ioannis Giannopoulos), the founder of what is known today as the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse in St. Augustine, Florida.

This year, a bust of Genopoly, created by acclaimed Greek sculptor, Dimitris Talaganis, will be unveiled in its Garden of Educators.

This will be the second time this year that Genopoly will be honored.

On January 22, 2020 the city of Tripoli, Greece in collaboration with Dimitris Talaganis organized an audiovisual event in memory of the beloved teacher at the Apostolopoulou Cultural Center titled: Ioannis Giannopoulos Travels After 250 years For a Second Time to America for a Conversation with History.

Konstantinos Tzioumis, mayor of Tripoli, noted that “in the person of Ioannis Giannopoulos we honor all the Arcadians, the Greeks of the diaspora, who each contributed a stone to the effort to spread Greek education throughout the world, and thus contributing to the rebirth of the Nation and to the Revolution of 1821. Good luck Ioannis Giannopoulos on your second trip to America.”

Many Americans attended the civic event including Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas P. Raptakis who noted that “Greeks everywhere work hard every day for the good of Greece, because they do not forget their homeland, wherever they are.” Also present were Merope Kyriakou, president of the Prometheus Association and Stella Kokolis, president of the Federation of Hellenic American Educators President and chair of the Third Annual Ioannis Giannopoulos commemoration.

In 1768, Giannopoulos arrived in St. Augustine with 1200 others contracted under the British Indentured Servitude Act. Their dream was to receive land in exchange of 7-years hard labor on the Florida plantation located in what we know today as New Smyrna Beach. In 1777, he and less than 500 survivors of the failed colony were received as refugees in St. Augustine. Governor Patrick Tonyn gave them their freedom and a few shillings, as well as sanctuary at the Avero House, located at 41 St. George Street, the site of St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine.

Early on, Genopoly occupied the one-story structure known as the Kipp House. In 1788, Genopoly recognized the importance of learning English. He added the second floor to the home to accommodate a private living space for himself and his family and invited the children from the Minorcan Quarter in to teach them reading, writing, and arithmetic. Two of the four children born in St. Augustine to Juan Genopoly and his wife also taught at the Old School.

Kokolis said of the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, “it is still preserved and makes us Hellenes proud of a compatriot from either Arcadia or Messenia who bequeathed us such a legacy.”

Elaine Fraser, CEO and owner of the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, has worked tirelessly to prepare the Educators’ Garden for the arrival of the Juan Genopoly bust that will be unveiled on March 7, 2020. She said, “this is a labor of love and in memory of my grandfather, former mayor of St. Augustine and Florida State Senator Walter B. Fraser. He would have been so pleased to receive the bust of Juan Genopoly in his Garden of Educators. That is what has made this undertaking even more worthwhile.”

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