When the St. Nicholas congregation consecrated its new cathedral on Dec. 19, 1937, it was not quite completed. The accompanying photograph of that day's...

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When the St. Nicholas congregation consecrated its new cathedral on Dec. 19, 1937, it was not quite completed. The accompanying photograph of that day’s procession led by Archbishop Tikhon of San Francisco reveals the tar paper that still wraps most of the sanctuary. Church historian Sergei Kalfov explains that the brick facade was added sometime later in 1938. The sprightly and surviving entryway was also constructed then.

The five cupolas springing from the roof symbolize Jesus Christ and the four evangelists. Kalfov notes that a church with seven cupolas might stand for the seven sacraments, and so on. Ivan Palmov, the architect, was also responsible for the St. Spiridon sanctuary in the Cascade neighborhood.

Both congregations primarily served Russian immigrants, beginning with those who fled the 1917 revolution, when the church in Russia was persecuted and Czar Nicholas II and his family were assassinated. The cathedral was dedicated to the memory of the czar, but its name also refers to the fourth-century “wonder-worker” St. Nicholas, the bishop of Myra in what is now Turkey.

What separated the members of St. Nicholas from those of St. Spiridon was, in part, the former’s continued devotion to the Russian monarchy. This past May 17, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church, after nearly 90 years of separation, reunited in Moscow. Kalfov said St. Nicholas hosted a pan-Orthodox service shortly after the reunion was made formal.

The congregation is now celebrating the 75th anniversary of its founding.

“Washington Then and Now,” the new book by Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard, can be purchased through www.washingtonthenandnow.com ($45) or through Tartu Publications at P.O. Box 85208, Seattle, WA 98145.