In 1898 the First Greek immigrant George Loukas (a tailor by trade came to Canton, Ohio. By 1900 there were 50 Greeks here. In 1909 they started thinking about building a church where they could honor their Orthodox faith and retain their Greek heritage and culture for their ever-growing families.
In 1914 they purchased a lot at 6th Street and Walnut South. And 3 short years later in 1917, with a mere $60,000 they started to build their church. It was completed in two years! 1919!
St. Haralambos was one of the many saints names placed into a hat. His name was drawn. That’s how the church was named and how St. Haralambos became our patron saint. In the 1930’s during the depression, the parishoners bought and burned the mortgage.
In the early 1940’s, major occurrences were taking place; the congregation had outgrown the church, people were moving out of the downtown area which made the church not as centrally located as it was in the beginning.
In 1951, opportunity knocked and the congregation purchased 10 acres of land located hat 25th and Harvard NW for $22,500. The first of many Building Committees in the history of our church was created. They reported to the congregation that it would cost roughly $750,000 to build what it was thought was needed for the future. And it was not until 1957, six years later, that they got serious again about the church’s future.
There was nothing appropriate on the market at the time. The lowest bid to build what they wanted was $403,000. And no one wanted to leave their church behind. The Board started to explore moving the church to the property they already owned at 25th and Harvard.
MURAL and SON of Cleveland Ohio had an excellent reputation for moving large structures (like huge monuments in Egypt). NICHOLAS J LESKO ASSOCIATES of Cleveland became the architect responsible for the expansion, the new hall, the interior finishings, the restoration of the towers, the new portico over the main entrance. These two companies were going to make it happen. It was going to cost $50,000 to actually move the church, $143,000 to remodel and restore, and $7,000 for the architect’s time and talent. The price was right at $200,000 and 92% of the congregation agreed to it!
In 2 months the congregation raised $100,000 going door-to-door, having teas and luncheons in their homes so they would only have to borrow $100,000 from the bank. Everybody got behind the fundraising.
And then 2 new huge obstacles: 1) The City of Canton wouldn’t issue a moving permit until everyone involved was in agreement and 2) because it was the biggest move ever attempted in Canton, the contractor couldn’t get an insurance policy to cover the moving of the church.
All of that settled, on April 16, 1958, the Mural Company officially took over the church. They removed precious stained glass windows, removed the very heavy slate roof, removed a 16-foot section of the church, and then covered each exposed side with wood and tar paper. Any piece of furniture that was secured to the floor stayed in the two halves through the move.
It took 1 trucks and 60 wheels of steel beams to make the 4-mile move. The church’s route went like this: Walnut S to 3rd SE. To Market South. Through the center of town on Tuscawaras Street, where the church angled dangerously. Past the square all the way to 9th Street NW. Onto Cleveland Ave North to an unpaved 30th Street NW where they had to plank the road because it had such an incline. To Harvard NW where they set the structure on a temporary foundation of railroad ties facing 25th NW.
The date: June 14, 1958. It took 18 days to move the first half. But once they figured out “how to” it only took 8 days to move the second half of the 41-year-old building.
Excellent weather conditions, no injuries, and only $100 in damages!
It took 10 months to complete the project: 48 foot addition comfortably seating 500 parishioners, the foundation, the hall and kitchen. Including another first: They had stopped making the bricks that had been destroyed from the original build. So to get the new center bricks to match the original bricks, they sandblasted the whole building. All completed by March 1, 1959.
There was an amazing celebration and the church has ‘been on the move’ ever since!
If you were to tour our church, you would see that so much of it is still the original: The carving over the front door that reads “In church bless the Name of the Lord”, the front doors, the choir loft, the chandelier, the solea, the altar and a stained glass window behind the altar. There is only one icon that has been replaced on the icon wall. The one of our patron saint, St. Haralambos. It was torched in a fire some years back, but miraculously the only item that suffered damage.
The items that have been replaced are: the pews, the pulpit, the throne, the bench, the railing, the portico and two windows behind the altar. Our church has also since built a parish house that is on the grounds near the church proper. We are currently in the process of building a new event center that will adjoin the existing hall. It is expected to be completed in May of 2010.
Who are we today? We are still a “church on the move” with a congregation of over 500 families.
To follow the commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ who said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. We are called to witness to those within and outside our Community of believers. Through: Liturgia-Worship, Martyria-Witness, Koinonia-Fellowship and Diakonia-Service by using this 5-Point Mission:
- Revitalize the faith of our active members.
- Reach out to our inactive members.
- Welcome those inquiring about our Orthodox faith.
- Offer guidance in the continued establishment of our Church.
- Establish outreach on a continual basis within our Community and Greater Canton.