© 2006 Utah Humanities Council
In 1905, Utah’s first Eastern Orthodox church—Holy Trinity—was dedicated. The church, which fronted 4th South, became the center of spiritual life for many eastern and southern Europeans who lived in Salt Lake City and around the Intermountain West. But it was Utah’s Greek community that was the driving force behind the construction and consecration of the church.
Most of Utah’s early Greek settlers were men who felt the duty to provide for their families, leaving poverty-stricken Greece in the hopes of finding temporary jobs in America. Labor agents for railroads and western mining companies preyed on these desperate men, luring them away to the Intermountain West from ports like New York and San Francisco almost as soon as they arrived. Typically, the agent would first charge the new immigrant an excessively steep fee to place him in a job, and then collect a one-dollar kickback from each month’s salary. One particularly repugnant labor agent, Leonidas Skliris, nicknamed the “Tsar of the Greeks,” lived in an opulent apartment in the Hotel Utah and publicly flaunted his diamond jewelry, bought with money he collected from poor immigrant workers.
In the initial years of Greek immigration to Utah, few women came with their husbands and fathers. In fact, in 1910, fewer than ten Greek women lived in the state. Over time, though, Greek men began staying longer in America, and started bringing family members to their ethnic neighborhood on Salt Lake’s west side. Holy Trinity soon became a place for family worship where children were baptized, young men and women were married, and whole families were given the sacraments. Eventually, the community outgrew the old church and a new one had to be built. The new church—also named Holy Trinity—still stands on the corner of 3rd West and 3rd South.
See Helen Papanikolas, Toil and Rage in a New Land: The Greek Immigrants in Utah (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1970); Thomas G. Alexander, Utah: The Right Place 2d ed. (Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith, 2003), 239-240; and Constantine J. Skedros, 100 Years of Faith and Fervor: A History of the Greek Orthodox Church Community of Greater Salt Lake City, Utah 1905-2005 (Salt Lake City, UT: The Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake, 2005). Also see Papanikolas’s entry on Greek immigrants to Utah in the online Utah History Encyclopedia at www.media.utah.edu/UHE.