On Saturday, March 7, the Federation of Hellenic-American Educators and the Pan Arcadian Association, in collaboration with the Association O Geros Tou Morea of New York and other organizations, will host its third event in memory of Juan Genopoly, “Ioannis Giannopoulos,” the founder of what is known today as the oldest wooden schoolhouse in St. Augustine.
This year, a bust of Genopoly, created by acclaimed Greek sculptor Dimitris Talaganis, will be unveiled in its Garden of Educators.
On Jan. 22, the municipality of Tripoli, in collaboration with Dimitris Talaganis, organized an audiovisual event in memory of the beloved teacher at the Apostolopoulou Cultural Center titled “Ioannis Giannopoulos Travels after 250 years for a Second Time to America for a Conversation with History.”
“In the person of Ioannis Giannopoulos, we honor all the Arcadians, the Greeks of the diaspora, who each contributed a stone to the effort to spread Greek education throughout the world, and thus contributing to the rebirth of the nation and to the Revolution of 1821,” Konstantinos Tzioumis, mayor of Tripoli, said. “Good luck Ioannis Giannopoulos on your second trip to America.”
In 1768, Giannopoulos arrived in St. Augustine with 1,200 others contracted under the British Indentured Servitude Act. Their dream was to receive land in exchange of seven years hard labor on the Florida plantation located in what is known today as New Smyrna Beach. In 1777, he and fewer than 500 survivors of the failed colony were received as refugees in St. Augustine. Gov. Patrick Tonyn gave them their freedom and a few shillings, as well as sanctuary at the Avero House, located at 41 St. George St., the site of St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine.
Early on, Genopoly occupied the one-story structure known as the Kipp House. In 1788, Genopoly recognized the importance of learning English. He added the second floor to the home to accommodate a private living space for himself and his family and invited the children from the Minorcan Quarter in to teach them reading, writing and arithmetic. Two of the four children born in St. Augustine to Genopoly and his wife also taught at the school.
Elaine Fraser, CEO and owner of the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, has prepared the Educators’ Garden for the arrival of the Juan Genopoly bust that will be unveiled on Saturday.
“This is a labor of love and in memory of my grandfather, former mayor of St. Augustine and Florida State Sen. Walter B. Fraser,” she said in a release. “He would have been so pleased to receive the bust of Juan Genopoly in his Garden of Educators. That is what has made this undertaking even more worthwhile.”