Following the Spanish-American War in 1898, it was decided that the American military forces required coordination and a centralised training program. The Army War College was founded in 1901 as the primary institute where the nation's senior officers could be educated and trained. On 21 February 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone to the hall, and four years later the first Army War College classes were held there. The building was constructed in a neo-Classical, Beaux Arts style. Designed by the New York architectural firm McKim, Mead and White, it features a central domed pavilion flanked by three-story wings oriented to the east and west and a roof made of slate tiles. The entrance is via a tall archway supported by columnns that are topped with a carved eagle. Inside, the floor of the rotunda is paved in white marble, and there is a large memorial plaque dedicated to the Secretary of War Elihu Root, who established the Army War College. There are also fine portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and other famous American military figures. Hanging from the centre of the brick dome is a splendid chandelier.
The building accommodated the Army War College from 1907-1917 and 1919-1940. During the World Wars it housed the War Plans Division, War Department General Staff, Selective Service System Headquarters, and the Headquarters for the U.S. Army Ground Forces. It 1946 it became the National War College. The first classes were provided to one hundred U.S. students. The west wing contains the library of the War College, and the east wing contains classrooms, offices, and lecture spaces.