The only remaining octagonal-plan Russian Orthodox church in Alaska, Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church was the first Russian Orthodox church in Juneau. Post-dating by several decades the Russian occupation of Alaska, the congregation was founded when Tlingit Chief Ishkhanalykh contacted the priest at Sitka to tell him that he wished to convert. In 1892, Bishop Nicholas visited Juneau and baptized the chief as Dimitrii. Dimitrii offered land, lumber, and labor to construct a church, while the bishop provided $2,000.
Although the precise origin of the design for this church is unknown, it is constructed in the form of several of the first churches or chapels, such as those at Sitka (1816), Unalaska (1808), and possibly Saint Michael (1840s). Unfortunately, none of the other octagonal churches survived even long enough to be photographed. Saint Nicholas's is painted white with royal blue trim, with small gable dormers and jigsawn trim giving it a picturesque air. The church is about 27 feet in diameter, wood frame with novelty siding. The sanctuary is contained within the main block of the building, while the vestibule extends on the west side. The polygonal roof rises to an octagonal cupola, which is topped with an onion dome, and over the vestibule there is a picturesque bell tower, added in 1905. On the interior, the seven-bay iconostas stretches across the eastern three sides of the building, with the end panels angled back slightly.
The church is oddly located on the site in order to follow the dictates of placing the altar toward the east. Closer to the corner is the priest's house, a one-and-a-half-story, wood-shingled dwelling.