The building, built in 1934, was designed by two Washington University architects, George W. Spearl and James P. Jamieson, to house the Department of Physics. Because of the nature of the experiments conducted, the building was constructed in such a manner that it is not subject to the Earth's natural vibrations, and contains a vertical shaft that extends the full height of the building for experiments that involve the study of falling objects. Construction for the building was made possible by $700,000 in gifts.
When Arthur Holly Compton died in 1962, the University erected a physics laboratory as a memorial to him. The 65,000 square foot, five level structure contains laboratories, offices, library space, and machine shop. The building's south face seamlessly adjoins Crow Hall and in tandem, the entire facility constitutes the Washington University Department of Physics.
The Arthur Holly Compton Laboratory of Physics was completed in 1965, and was dedicated in 1966 in recognition of Dr. Compton's distinguished achievements as an educator, physicist, department chairman and chancellor.
The Power Plant contains offices that are used by members of the physics department.