The Library was constructed on the site of Grant's Row thanks to the acquisition of the land in 1928 by Henry Clay Folger. Folger was a millionaire Standard Oil executive who devoted a great deal of his life to the acquisition of the largest collection of Shakespearean materials in the world. Folger intended for the building to be of Elizabethan design but architect Paul P. Cret convinced him that an Elizabethan design would clash with the classical buildings surrounding the Library on Capitol Hill.
The building was built in the classical style but contained an Elizabethan theater and spaces for 75,000 books. Construction lasted from 1929-1932 and the cornerstone was laid in 1930. Mr. Folger died two weeks after the cornerstone was laid and his will appointed the Trustees of Amherst College to administer the library.
Alexander B. Trowbridge served as consulting architect. An addition was added to the original structure in 1981.
DC listing: November 8, 1964
National Register listing: June 23, 1969