Contrary to popular belief, it was not a former airplane hangar. The Houston Field House began life as a Navy warehouse in Davisville, Rhode Island. Following World War II, RPI applied to the Veterans Education Facilities Program for permission to move the warehouse to Troy. The school had originally sought a hangar to convert to a field house, but none were available. The VEFP, formed to help colleges build facilities to handle the increased enrollment of veterans, absorbed the cost of transporting and reconstructing the building. RPI paid $500,000 for the interior renovations necessary for athletic contests.
Construction was planned for completion in June of 1948, but owing to inclement weather, the building was not finished until October 1949. On the thirteenth of that month, RPI President Livingston W. Houston dedicated the RPI Field House as part of a ceremony honoring the 125th anniversary of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Houston stated the building "will be a benefit to the City of Troy as well as to our students and faculty." The following day, the Prime Minister of Canada, Louis St. Laurent, gave an address and received the honorary degree Doctor of Laws.
Through the last completed season, the RPI men's hockey team has a 651-402-66 (.611) record playing at the Houston Field House.
A list of "firsts" for the Field House:
- Event: Interfraternity Ball on November 12, 1949 (music performed by Elliot Lawrence and his Orchestra).
- Sporting Event: December 3, 1949 as RPI defeated the New York State Maritime Academy 55-43 in basketball.
- Hockey Game: January 10, 1950 as RPI lost to Middlebury 8-2.
- Commencement: January 27, 1950 (General Omar N. Bradley delivered the commencement speech).