The barn was built in 1887 or 1888 by William Bigham for David Hutchinson, the father of Nellie G. Hutchinson. She was a teacher at the Normal School who married William J. Sutton March 3, 1897. A month before their marriage, he had resigned as President of the Normal School and she resigned as head of the Training Department.
The barn became part of their farmstead. Sutton had extensive land holdings and oversaw a large farming operation, as well as breeding race horses. Mr. Hutchinson continued to make his home with the couple until his death.
William Bigham is known to have built the original Spokane County Courthouse at Cheney as well as a number of other buildings in town. Tax records from the county office in Spokane list the date of the barn construction as 1888.
The barn sits on a split fieldstone foundation and originally had a cedar shake roof. The long side of the L-shaped barn is 90 feet. The most unusual feature of its construction is a mortise and tenon braced frame. The diagonal members are set into shoulders on the posts and nailed, while the horizontal timbers are mortised and pegged with hardwood dowels.
The outside of the barn still shows evidence of the double sliding loft doors that were once used to load and access hay. There are also large sliding doors at ground level on each end of the barn, though they are not functional.
An open shed-roofed shelter was added sometime after 1935 which filled in the inside corner of the L. This structure was removed during a 1979 remodel.
Inside the barn, many of the rough-sawn planks are over 20 feet long.
Eastern Washington State College acquired the barn and the remainder of the Sutton property at the western edge of Cheney in 1969. In 1974, a number of professors' wives rallied the community to convince the college not to tear down the barn. Instead, it became the meeting place for Ecological Lab Group. Cheney's first recycling center was located in front of the old barn.
A new roof was put on the building in 1975, and a weather station was installed nearby. It was about this time that the barn regained its red color. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
In 1979, the barn was completely remodeled. It then became the home to the university police and parking services.
In 2001, renovations on the barn replaced the siding and roof, but care was taken to match the appearance of original materials. Today, the Red Barn continues to house the EWU Campus Police department.