Glasgow University Union was founded in 1885. Before the 1920s the union was accommodated in the John McIntyre Building, which opened in 1890. The premises became too cramped for the growing number of students at the University. A new building at the foot of University Avenue was designed by Alan McNaughton of Arthur & McNaughton and was erected between 1929 and 1931 with funds from the student welfare scheme that was set up in 1921 to reinvigorate student life. Stanley Baldwin, the former Primer Minister, officially opened the building on 12 December 1930.
An extension to the Union, called 'The Hive', was designed by Richard De'Ath of Keppie, Henderson & Partners and opened in 1965. A further beer bar extension was designed by the same architects and was opened in late 1969.
Both the organisation and the building were often referred to as the "Men's Union" before women students were permitted to join in 1980.
In 2014, work began to demolish and replace the Glasgow University Union's Hive nightclub, led by Heron Bros Ltd, as part of an extensive refurbishment of the Sports & Recreation centre of the Stevenson Building.