Armenian and Greek Immigrants


Armenians began arriving to Washington Heights from the 1890s to the 1920s. They immigrated to the United States in order to escape political persecution back home in Armenia. There was an influx of Armenian immigrants following the Hamidian Massacres, which took place from 1894 to 1896. Thousands of Armenians were massacred at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Due to the great many deaths, at least 50,000 children were orphaned. It was imperative that the Armenians flee to a nation where they would not be killed. Thus, the Armenians found their place in the United States. Here in New York they settled and formed a major Armenian enclave in not only Washington Heights, but also in the east 20’s of Manhattan. This first wave of immigration lasted until the mid-1920s, when new immigration quotas limited the number of Armenians that were allowed to immigrate to the United States.

Armenian Archbishop Ghevont Tourian

As with every other ethnic group to ever immigrate to the United States, the Armenians brought with them their unique culture, which they integrated into American life. Armenians established various communities and organizations, in particular the Armenian Apostolic Church. A main church that was established was the Holy Cross Church of Armenia in Washington Heights. This church became the center of a crime scene, when Armenian Archbishop Ghevont Tourian was murdered on December 25, 1933.

Greek immigration peaked around the same time that the Armenians started moving into Washington Heights. Greeks came to the United States in large numbers just before and after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1922 and the economic crisis following the two world wars and Grecian civil war. The 1960’s also saw ascension of Greek immigration to New York. However, when Greece joined the European Union in the 1980’s, emigration fell drastically as the economy surged and people found less reason to venture to America.

The Greeks, however, did not start moving into Washington Heights until the 1920’s. So many Greeks moved into Washington Heights in the 1950’s and 1960’s that the community began being referred to as the “Astoria of Manhattan.”

Saint Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church

While Astoria still has much of its Greek population, the Greek presence in Washington Heights has all but vanished, leaving only a few Greek Orthodox churches behind. The few Greeks left in Washington Heights still recall the glory days of Greek-American Washington Heights such as George Psihogios, a caretaker of St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church, who was interviewed by the New York Times. At the pinnacle of the Greek community in the 1960’s, an estimated 15,000 people of Greek descent lived in Washington Heights alone. These numbers, however, have changed drastically with the 2000 Census only counting fewer than a thousand Greek-Americans in all of Upper Manhattan.


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