While the Denver Greek Festival is an annual event, the Greek community in Denver is active all year long. The Greek community is over 100 years in the making and can be traced back to the early 1900s with the arrival of the first Greeks in Denver.
Early Greeks in Denver fell into three categories: the railroad men whom would work in Wyoming during the week and hang out in coffee shops on the weekend; restaurateurs and shopkeepers who started out in “Greek Town,” now present day LoDo between 14th and 20th and Curtis and Market Streets; and the laborers who worked in the coal mines in Erie, Lafayette and smelters in Globeville.
The first Greek Orthodox church was at 37th Avenue and Lafayette Street, opening in 1908. World War I took a toll on the Greek community with many men in the community returning back to Greece to fight for their homeland. The Greek-owned businesses in the community raised money not only for the war effort but for the church.
By the mid-1920s, the Greek community in Denver became rather prosperous, as did its business owners. The Greeks were prominent in both business and politics. Many men were sending funds back home to their families in Greece, while others were settling down and starting their own.
The Greeks living in downtown eventually moved to Curtis Park and Congress Park to be closer to the church and move up in Denver society.
With the growing community, there was a demand for a new church. The new church was at Sixth Avenue and Pennsylvania Street, opening in 1933. Along with the new church, there were efforts made to make the church a pinnacle of the Greek community in Denver.
During the 1930s and 1940s, the community grew robustly despite the restrictions of the Great Depression. Because of the post-war boom, in 1950 there was a need for a larger church, leading the purchase of the Cathedral’s current location at East Alameda at Dahlia Street.
In 1961, the site of the new church was dedicated, while the community prospered throughout the decade with ministries such as Philoptochos Charitable Society, Greek Orthodox Youth of America, the PanArcadian Society and the PanCretan Association of America.
Today’s Denver Greek Festival began as a Greek Bazaar to help raise funds to pay the mortgage on the community center complex. The bazaar became the Greek Marketplace, now the Denver Greek Festival.
Groundbreaking for the church took place in 1971. It’s ambitious architectural plan of a dome in addition to seating for 800 moved the location of the diocese to Denver from Houston.
The Greek community began to spread from Denver down south to the South Metro area. A new community, St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church began in 1984, with a permanent location established in 1995.
The iconography project began in the 1980s to beautify the walls of the church and the dome with icons depicting the life of Christ and feasts in the church. The iconography was completed, along with other beautification projects, in 1998. The church was consecrated on its feast day, August 15, 1998.
Since, the Greek community has grown even more and continues to produce generations of Greeks, both natives, and migrants, who make up its unique presence in Denver.
Come visit the Assumption of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Cathedral during the Denver Greek Festival to see the rich iconography for yourself.