Meany Hall hosts international performers through the UW World Series, as well as performers from the School of Drama, School of Music, Dance Program, and the Center for Digital Arts & Experimental Media. The lobby of Meany Theatre is adorned with the artwork from various artists, including Dale Chihuly and Jacob Lawrence.
The building was named for Professor Edmond S. Meany, a UW graduate and head of the history department, who was instrumental to the success of getting the exposition and many of the buildings on the UW campus. Because of Meany's dedication to campus the student newspaper, The Daily started an editorial campaign in 1909 to rename Auditorium Hall to Meany Hall, going so far as referring to the hall as "Meany Hall" in the news columns. The Board of Regents resisted the name because no other campus building had been named for a living person. Meany himself wanted the building to be named Seward Hall, after William H. Seward, the man who bought Alaska from Russia. On May 1, 1914, the regents relented and the hall was officially renamed at a ceremony held to mark the Edmond Meany and his wife’s 25th wedding anniversary.
Before 1925, the University Book Store was housed in Meany's basement. It was relocated due to objections from the city fire marshal citing the lack of fire escapes and fire extinguishers.
In 1958, a $75,000 renovation improved the lighting and sound of the interior of Meany. The Daily reported that the interior of Meany, newly painted salmon pink, was "no longer staid and Victorian - it is almost futuristic with soft red-and-gray seats and ... salt-shaker lights suspended like mobiles from the roof." The 1958 renovation also included structural reinforcements, although engineers predicted that the Meany would eventually have to be brought down.
On April 20, 1965, an earthquake in Seattle rendered Meany unsafe for occupation and it was condemned. The demolition of Meany Hall provided more opportunities for campus planners to open up the space in what is now known as Red Square. The gothic edifice of Suzzallo Library could now be the main plaza's centerpiece. In the 1995, the Allen Center for the Visual Arts was built in the Meany's former place.
It was not until 1974 that a new hall for the performing arts was built, southeast of the former entrance. The architects for the new building were Kirk, Wallace, McKinley & Associates, and it was built for a cost of $7,122,884. In stark contrast to the Victorian-style facade of the old Meany, the new Meany Hall was built in the same style as the Odegaard Undergraduate Library.