Our Serbian Community roots in Windsor and Essex County go back to the turn of the last century. There were very few immigrants from the homeland; they had come mainly from the areas that were still under the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the remnants of the Ottoman Empire occupation. Those early immigrants settled in the Detroit and Windsor area.
Many more Serbs came to North America after WWI and especially after WWII. Today’s Serbian community was also significantly enlarged during the recent fall and separation by the Republics of Communist Yugoslavia. Canada again became a home for many people that were expelled from their homes and our community gained a significant number of Serbian people.
For the community to start in an organized fashion you need a gathering place. For this reason the first house was purchased in the late 1930’s on Edna Street. At that time our Serbian people attended the Russian and the Ukrainian Orthodox churches for their religious needs. As the community grew larger the house was sold and a lot on Drouillard road was purchased from the City of Windsor. By 1940 the new Hall was dedicated and became our permanent home for social gathering and church services.
December 29, 1946 marks the most significant date in the history of our Serbian Congregation in Windsor. This is date of the founding meeting for the first legally organized Church Congregation. An Executive Board was elected, which worked on establishing by-laws, membership drive as well as making plans for the future. The main purpose of this organized Congregation was to preserve their rich Serbian Tradition and their Orthodox Faith in their new homeland of Canada.
The Ownership of the Serbian Hall on Drouillard Road was transferred to our new Congregation In 1948. This was the place we started to use for our religious needs and in 1949 we were able to hire a permanent priest. In 1952 we built a beautiful Church “Gracanica” at the corner of Meldrum and Tecumseh roads. As our Congregation continued to grow we needed a larger place for our cultural, educational, entertainment and recreational needs. At our picnic grounds at the east end of the city, 6770 Tecumseh Road E. we built a new Hall that was completed in 1967. As the Congregation continued to grow we built recreational facilities and a much larger addition in 1987. These expanded facilities at the Serbian Community Centre currently feature a Museum, Library, large and small hall, 8 classrooms, offices, picnic grounds, small soccer field and a large outdoor patio. Our new Congregation grew from about 80 in the beginning to close to 400 members and families in 2013.
Since our Tradition and Faith are inseparable, we used the Hall on Drouillard road for our events as well as for church services. We did not have our own priest so we had to share the priest from Detroit. Naturally our goal from the start was to have our own church and our own priest. We started collecting donations for the new church. With the full support of the congregation, fundraising was successful. In 1949 the lot on the corner of Meldrum Road and Tecumseh Road was purchased and a replica of the XIII century monastery in Kosovo “Gracanica” was built and completed in 1952.
Our church, besides being a unique, eye catching architectural design is full of exceptional art pieces. Let us mention a few of them. The master Iconostas that separates sanctuary from the main church was commissioned in 1968. It was designed by a well-known professor of religious Art.. A 30 feet high, very elaborate, carved walnut wood Iconostas was shipped from our fatherland in pieces and assembled at the church. Our Frescoes were completed in 1978 by an Art Studio from Greece. Stain glass windows were introduced in 1956 but were not completed until the 50th Anniversary of the Congregation in 1996. We are also very proud of our three Church bells which were cast in England in 1963. The beautiful chandelier hanging from the church’s main dome was donated in 1958 and is only one of two of its kind in North America.
The church is recognized by the Ministry of Culture as a “Heritage Site” and as quoted by the Windsor Star “one of the greatest concentrations of art in this region”!
August 13,2013 /GV
1960 Meldrum Road ~ Windsor Ontario ~ N8W 4E2 ~ P: 519-945-8555 ~
©2013 Grachanica Serbian Orthodox Church
+ John Miloyevich