Northeastern's first home was the Boylston Street building of the Boston YMCA. After that building burned in 1910, classes continued in spaces provided by the City of Boston, Boston University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Various buildings on Ashburton Place, Huntington and Massachusetts Avenues were also briefly occupied by the University. Construction of the new main building of the YMCA on Huntington Avenue began in 1911 and was completed in 1913, providing a central space for Northeastern. The Vocational Building, later renamed the Botolph Building and now Cullinane Hall, was built in 1911 and housed the Automobile School and Electrical School.
After World War I, the University required more space and expanded first with rented space in the Gainsborough Building, and then onto the second floor of the Huntington Building, constructed in 1924 with spaces specifically for the University. The University made its first purchase of land in 1929, buying a little over an acre from the Boston and Providence Railroad Corporation. In 1936, Northeastern added a wing to the Botolph Building for a print shop, a maintenance shop, and classroom and laboratory space for the Biology Department. Three years later, under pressure to meet the requirements of the accrediting body for the College of Engineering, Northeastern built Richards Hall as the first building in its developing campus plan. At that time, Richards was called the West Building, while the Botolph Building and the Northeastern space in the YMCA building were respectively referred to as the South Building and East Building.
Further expansion of the physical plant followed with the addition of the New Building in 1941. This building was later named Science Hall and housed the Department of Chemical Engineering, an expanded Department of Biology, student spaces, and a lecture hall. By the mid–1940s, the original campus plan had been greatly revised. Plans to have all the buildings on campus connected by above ground passages had been discarded in favor of a subterranean tunnel system connecting the main campus buildings. The gymnasium and auditorium had originally been conceived as a combined building, but a more careful study of the available land made it clear that this was impossible. Instead, the Student Center Building and Alumni Auditorium (later named Blackman Auditorium) were built as separate structures over the next few years and dedicated in 1947.
In 1951, Northeastern made more land purchases, bringing the University's presence on Huntington Avenue to over 12 acres. The 1950s saw the addition of the first dormitory in 1950, the Forsyth Building in 1951, the Library Building (now Dodge Hall) in 1952, the Godfrey Lowell Cabot Physical Education Center in 1954, and Hayden Hall in 1956. The Library was rededicated in 1959 as the Robert Gray Dodge Library in honor of Mr. Dodge who gave the first lecture at the University's School of Law in 1897, and the Alumni Auditorium / Student Center Building was re–dedicated as the Carl Stephens Ell Student Center in 1959 in honor of the second president. The Graduate Center was also dedicated in 1959, marking the end of over two decades of extensive development that established a permanent city campus with room for future expansion.
By the beginning of the 1960s, the University was transforming from a mainly commuter college to a residential university. Additional land purchases brought the University's presence to 40 acres along Huntington Avenue with 11 academic buildings and four residential dormitories located in the greater Back Bay area. The Diamond Anniversary Development Program, begun in 1961, emphasized the University's physical development, tying academic achievement with the physical plant. Among other ideas, the Program proposed that, over the next 12 years, Northeastern build 12 new buildings, including residence housing and a new sports complex. The interest in residence housing came from Northeastern's desire to attract students from around the country rather than rely on local commuter students to make up the majority of the student body. To make this change, the University needed more permanent dormitory space, and by 1966 five new dormitories were built: Light Hall, Smith Hall, White Hall, Melvin Hall, and Stetson Hall (East and West). Stetson, originally conceived as a men's dormitory in 1963 (Contract 1), was transformed into the first women's dormitory in 1966 (Contract 2) as need arose for more women's housing. The University established five new colleges in the 1960s, further emphasizing the need for the Diamond Anniversary Development Program's plan of expansion. To be able to provide classroom space and administrative and academic support for these new colleges, the University had to expand further. The first building dedicated under the Diamond Anniversary Development Program was the Mugar Life Science Building in 1963 which held administrative offices, as well as spaces for the Biology, Psychology, Chemical Engineering, and Natural Science departments. It also housed the newly acquired College of Pharmacy.
To be sure programs like those at Boston–Bouvé were supported and to meet student demand for new programs, Northeastern also commissioned plans for new gymnasium facilities to include, among other things, a state–of–the–art pool. By June of 1966, the new swimming facility was in the preliminary planning stages and the Barletta Natatorium was dedicated on December 6, 1969. The athletic facilities available now included a swimming pool, weight rooms, and handball courts in addition to the existing Cabot Gymnasium. To support the new programs of the re–opened School of Law and the College of Criminal Justice, the University built the Asa S. Knowles Center in 1969 and Volpe Hall in 1972. The University also purchased buildings further along Huntington and the Fenway to house the College of Education.
During the early 1960s, the University also expanded beyond Boston with branch campuses and conference facilities. In 1961, Ernest Henderson purchased the Pierce Mansion for Northeastern to use as a conference center. It was renamed the Henderson House and used by President Ryder as a residence. The following year, Northeastern opened another branch campus in Burlington, Massachusetts, on a 15 acre site that had been a Nike missile installation. Additional conference facilities were added in 1963 with the opening of the Warren Center in Ashland, Massachusetts.
On the Boston campus, Northeastern constructed the Charles A. Dana Research Center in part with funds from a $900,000 National Science Foundation grant. Dedicated in 1967, the $2.1 million Center housed graduate classrooms, a research center and laboratories for the physics and electrical engineering departments. Soon, government contracted research was being done and a lasting relationship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed.
Expansion efforts continued in the 1960s with the growth of Ell Hall. In response to student demand, the administration refocused the original building schedule and dedicated the student center in 1964.The main building and expansion projects of the Diamond Anniversary Development Program were largely complete by the end of the 1960s. During the 1970s, only three buildings were built or purchased: the Afro–American Center was purchased in 1970, the Amelia Peabody Health Professions Center expanded into the Mugar Life Sciences Building in 1973, and Kerr Hall was built in 1975. Renovations were made to Dodge Library, but the new library building that had been planned did not develop due to financial difficulties. The last major construction project of the Development Program was the Stearns Center, completed in 1977.
Construction proceeded at a slower pace during the 1980s and 1990s in response to the needs of individual programs or University projects. The Century Fund, begun in 1980, raised funds for several building projects including Kariotis Hall, opened in 1982, and extensive renovations to the Mugar laboratories in 1983. In 1985, Snell Engineering building was completed. Many other buildings saw renovations or rededications, including Botolph (renamed as Cullinane Hall in 1985), Ruggles (renovated and renamed Ryder Hall in 1990), and the Columbus Parking Garage (completed in 1987). Another major building project was the Snell Library, completed and dedicated in 1990. Throughout this period, too, the University made a concerted effort to green the campus, moving away from the asphalt and cement that had largely dominated the Boston campus.
Throughout the 1990s, the University constructed the Egan Engineering / Science Research Center, the Marino Recreation Center, the Curry Student Center and Shillman Hall. Matthews Arena and the Cabot Gym saw major renovations. During the 2000s, the University built the West Village complex near Ruggles Street, which was designed to include at least four dormitories, a parking garage, two academic and administrative buildings, and the George Behrakis Health Sciences Center. The College of Computer Science was given a home in the West Village, and programs of the Bouve College of Health Sciences were housed in the Behrakis Center. The first of the dormitories, provisionally called West Village A, opened for student residence in 1999; West Village B and C opened in 2000; the Behrakis Center and West Village E opened in 2002; West Village G and H opened in 2004; and the last dormitory, West Village F, which also houses the African–American Institute, opened in 2006. The University also bought and renovated the South End Auto Supply building on Columbus Avenue for dormitory space, and completed numerous smaller projects such as the Northeastern Veterans' Memorial, dedicated in the fall of 2006.