This laboratory was commissioned as a tenth reunion gift of the Class of 1877, which included several famous Princetonians, most notably Moses Taylor Pyne and Cyrus Hall McCormick. It was designed by A. Page Brown (the architect of the Museum of Historic Art and the new Whig and Clio Halls) in 1887, and built in 1887-88. Incorporating three laboratories and rooms for professors, it helped to meet Princeton's growing need for more specialized teaching and research facilities, as McCosh expanded and redefined the curriculum.
The laboratory cost $12,000 and was designed in the same Romanesque style and material as the Museum of Historic Art. A terra cotta plaque on the second floor gave the name of the building and the sponsoring class. (This plaque can be seen today embedded in Firestone Library's south wall.) Subsequently the building was used as an organic chemistry laboratory, the offices of the College Entrance Examination Board, and the offices of the Bureau of Urban Research.
The University contemplated removing the laboratory throughout the 1930s, but in 1938 Professor Charles Rufus Morey suggested that the laboratory be used for the temporary exhibition of mosaics excavated at Antioch. He further suggested that the building be moved and joined to the Museum of Historic Art as a new wing. This expensive suggestion was quietly shelved, but until 1941 the building did serve temporarily as the "Epigraphical Museum," housing a display of the casts made by Princeton professors and students during the Syrian expeditions of the 1890s.
The Class of 1877 Biological Laboratory, which stood to the north of the location of the present Chapel, was demolished in May 1946 in order to clear the way for Firestone Library.