Located at the base of Mount Sentinel in Missoula, the land for the University of Montana was granted by Congress in 1881. University President Oscar Craig and Professor Frederick Scheuch designed the first campus master plan, centering on an oval green from which campus buildings were to radiate. The three-acre Oval marks the traditional center of campus. Originally forbidden to be crossed by students, today it is divided into quadrants by two intersecting brick-laid paths, with two rows of deciduous trees planted around it. The original gravel driveway surrounding the Oval is now a brick sidewalk. The university opened in 1899 with the completion of the first two buildings, Main Hall and Science Hall, designed by Missoula architect A. J. Gibson in Richardsonian Romanesque style.
Following World War I, Helena architect George Carsley and New York architect Cass Gilbert designed a second campus master plan, implemented between 1918 and 1927, which called for an ordered expansion of the university. Eight buildings were realized according to the Carsley/Gilbert plan, designed by various architects in the Renaissance Revival style. Memorial Row, a double row of ponderosa pines planted in 1919 to honor the World War I dead, exists in somewhat altered form today. The University of Montana Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.