Designed in 1909-10 by the New York architect Cass Gilbert, Battle Hall was the first academic building on campus listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As University Architect (1909-1922), Gilbert was given carte blanche over the design for what was originally intended to be The University Library. His design credentials included designs for the U.S. Supreme Court Building, the Minnesota State Capitol, and the Woolworth Building in Manhattan. He excluded all ornamentation indigenous or identifiable to Texas and adopted a Spanish-Mediterranean revival style, in place of Collegiate Gothic, as that which best suited the image of the fledgling university as well as the Texas climate. This style became the model for future buildings on campus, including Sutton Hall (1918), Gilbert's only other structure at The University.
Gilbert's building served as The University Library until the Main Building's completion in 1937, at which time it was used for fine arts classes and administrative office space. In 1950, the building became known as the Eugene C. Barker Texas History Center to recognize the fact that it housed the University's collection of Texana. In 1973 the Texas Collection was relocated and the building named for Dr. William James Battle (1870-1955), the sixth president of The University of Texas. From 1973 to 1980, Battle Hall contained administrative offices for the College of Fine Arts and the library was comprised of the collections for Music, Library Science, Education & Psychology, and Architecture. Today, Battle Hall is the home of the Architecture and Planning Library, the Alexander Architectural Archives, and the Center for American Architecture and Design.
In February 2007, the American Insitute of Architects announced that Battle Hall was included on its list of America's Favorite Architecture.