The Western Avenue (Downtown) Campus was opened in September 1909 with three initial buildings, the Science Building (now Husted), the Administration Building (now Draper), and the Auditorium (now Hawley). The new campus was the fourth location of the school. The Western Avenue Campus was commissioned after the destruction of the Willett Street building by fire in January 1906. Between 1906 and 1909 the school was housed at a number of local churches and buildings. The present names for the three initial buildings, Husted, Draper, and Hawley Halls, were not chosen until December 1927. In 1929 the campus doubled in size with the opening of Milne, Page, and Richardson Halls. The Washington Avenue facade of the Western Avenue (Downtown) Campus was completed with the 1951 opening of the Draper Annex or Commerce Building and the 1956 completion of additions to Richardson Hall. The current name, Downtown Campus, came into existence after the opening of the Uptown Campus in the mid-1960s.
During the late 1960's and 1970's, the Downtown Campus served as the headquarters for a number of organizations affiliated with the University until the early 1980s when the campus was reactivated as an academic center. In 1981 the SUNY Board of Trustees created the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy by merging the Graduate School of Public Affairs, the School of Criminal Justice and the School of Social Welfare. Rockefeller College was headquartered on the Downtown Campus. The School of Library and Information Science was renamed the School of Information Science and Policy and joined with Rockefeller College in 1986. The Hawley Library was re-activated as the library for Rockefeller College and the School of Library Science under the name Graduate Library for Public Affairs and Policy (GLPP) in 1981. In 1988, the GLPP was renamed the Governor Thomas E. Dewey Graduate Library for Public Affairs and Policy. In a 2001 reorganization of Rockefeller College, the Schools of Criminal Justice, Information Science and Policy, Public Affairs and Policy, and Social Welfare were once again separated as academic units. The title Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy was retained by the former Graduate School of Public Affairs. All of the colleges and schools are currently headquartered on the Downtown Campus.