Seeing the blue onion dome from a distance, you’d probably assume St. Nicholas to be your typical Russian church.
But take a drive down Clintoneville Ave, and you’ll realize the truth…
Someone has landed a spaceship in Queens and disguised it as a Russian Orthodox church.
Without question, St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church of Whitestone, Queens is one of my favorite churches in New York City, in part because I’ve simply never seen anything like it.
The roof is covered in reflective aluminum (?) panels, which not only serve to catch your eye from the ground…
…but also create an amazing metallic cruciform when viewed from the sky:
Topping the structure off is an onion dome painted in the most brilliant shade of blue I’ve ever seen on this type of church (perhaps cleverly hiding a laser canon?):
But it’s not just the roof that makes you feel St. Nicholas is about to blast off. The facade is covered in unusual curves and angles that give it a futuristic feel, a sort of Russian Orthodox by way of Star Wars blast doors motif:
St. Nicholas was designed by architect Sergei Padukow and built in 1968, replacing a wooden church that had been standing on the site since 1919. I came across it the very first time I had to scout Queens years ago, and I’ve always loved visiting it ever since:
A side entrance, with an interesting door overhang:
Another fantastically interesting design on a second side entrance…
…framing both a wooden door and a vent (for engine exhaust, of course):
The front of the church, as seen from the street:
And one final surprise hidden in the rear of the church: the flight deck altar is similarly wrapped in a steel finish:
And with all the silver coating to the building, you have to admit…
…this is a pretty appropriate rectory vehicle:
The interior of the church is more traditional than the outside. Unfortunately, the doors were locked when I passed by on Friday, but you can take a tour on the St Nicholas website here (thanks, r185):
If you’re in the neighborhood, definitely make it a point to walk by 14-65 Clintonville Ave and see St. Nicholas in person. With its gleaming steel roof and stucco white walls, it’s near impossible to take a bad picture of it.
Just watch out if you hear the engines firing up.