In 1592, Greek captain Juan de Fuca (Ioannis Fokas or Apostolos Valerianos) sailed up the Pacific coast under the Spanish flag, in search of the fabled Northwest Passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic. He reported discovering a body of water, a strait which today bears his name: the Strait of Juan de Fuca, today part of the Canada – United States border.
About 500 Greeks from Smyrna, Crete, and Mani settled in New Smyrna Beach, Florida in 1768.
The first significant Greek community to develop was in New Orleans, Louisiana during in the 1850s. By 1866, the community was numerous and prosperous enough to have a Greek consulate and the first Greek Orthodox Church in the United States. During that period, most Greek immigrants to the New World came from Asia Minor and the Aegean Islands which was still under Ottoman rule. By 1890, there were almost 15,000 Greeks living in the U.S.
Immigration picked up again in the 1890s and early 20th century. Most of these immigrants had come from southern Greece, especially from the Peloponnesian provinces of Laconia and Arcadia. 450,000 Greeks arrived to the States between 1890 and 1917, most working in the cities of the northeastern United States; others labored on railroad construction and in mines of the western United States; another 70,000 arrived between 1918 and 1924. Each wave of immigration contributed to the growth of Hellenism in the U.S.
Greek immigration at this time was over 90% male, contrasted with most other European immigration to the U.S., such as Italian and Irish immigration, which averaged 50% to 60% male. Many Greek immigrants expected to work and return to their homeland after earning capital and dowries for their families. Two factors changed attitudes and facilitated permanent immigration:
1) Loss of homeland: In 1885, Eastern Rumeli, an Ottoman autonomous territory with a Greek minority became de facto part of the Principality of Bulgaria (de jure from 1908). Then, in 1923, a population exchange between Greece and Turkey resulted in the flight of some 1,500,000 Greeks from Anatolia, Eastern Thrace and Pontus. In both cases, these Greeks were de jure denaturalized from those homelands and lost the right to return and their families were made refugees.
2) The first widely implemented U.S. immigration limits against Europeans were made in 1923, creating an impetus for immigrants to apply for citizenship, bring their families and permanently settle in the U.S. Fewer than 30,000 Greek immigrants arrived in the U.S. between 1925 and 1945, many of whom were "picture brides" for single Greek men.
Greeks again began to arrive in large numbers after 1945, fleeing the economic devastation caused by World War II and the Greek Civil War. From 1946 until 1982, approximately 211,000 Greeks immigrated to the United States. Greek immigrants founded more than 600 diners in the New York metropolitan area in the 1950s through the 1970s. Immigration to the United States from Greece peaked between the 1950 and 1970.
The Atlantis was the first successful Greek language daily newspaper published in the United States. The newspaper was founded in 1894 by Solon J. and Demetrius J. Vlasto, descendants of the Greek noble family, Vlasto. The paper was headed by a member of the Vlasto family until it closed in 1973.
The 1960s saw a large number of ethnic Greeks from Greece, and immigrants from Cyprus in 1974. The Greek cultural imprint can be seen in the numerous Greek restaurants, bakeries, tavernas and cafes, as well as several Greek Orthodox churches. The population of Greeks in Astoria was 22,579 in 1980, Greek organizations in the area include the Hellenic American Action Committee (HANAC) and the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York