A community of Orthodox believers established the Church of St. Nicholas in the early 1890s in rented rooms in lower Manhattan in New York City. As the congregation grew to some 300 parishioners in 1899, a movement began to build a new, larger [[church]]. A location in an inexpensive part of uptown Manhattan on 97th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues was purchased. Donations by Tsar [[Nicholas II of Russia|Nicholas II]] of 7,500 rubles were among the first donations made for the construction of the new church. On [[May 22]], 1901, Bishop [[Tikhon of Moscow|Tikhon]] of the Aleutians and North America laid the cornerstone of the [[temple]].
The design, by John Bergesen, was of a church that followed that of typical Russian churches. The structure was of stone with a dark red brick facade trimmed with limestone and glazed tile in green, blue, and yellow surmounted by seven onion shaped domes. The curving ribs of the domes were of gilt bronze that contrasted with the green painted galvanized iron surface.