The first church in the name of Archangel Gabriel on this site was first mentioned in 1551 census records. By 1657 it was rebuilt in stone, and was extended in 1679. Twenty years later the influential statesman Alexander Menshikov consolidated parcels of land south from present-day Clean Ponds. The church of Archangel Gabriel became a house church of his estate which stood one block to the west, on the site of present-day Central Post Office.
In 1701 Menshikov repaired the old church, but in 1704 ordered it to be demolished. Menshikov assigned overall construction management to Ivan Zarudny. Domenico Trezzini, subordinate to Zarudny, was placed in charge of European craftsmen (of Fontana, Rusco, Ferrara and other Ticino families) but after half a year was dispatched to Saint Petersburg.
The new church was structurally complete by 1707; its height, 81 meters, equaled that of Ivan the Great Bell Tower. The building initially had five structural stone levels (the nave, a square lower tower and three octagonal levels; the top two octagons were built of wood). By 1708 the tower acquired 50 bells and an English chiming clock. It was crowned with a 30-meter spire with a gilded angel-shaped weather vane. Menshikov tower was Moscow's first building richly adorned with figurative sculpture, but most of it was lost in the 18th century.