College Hall was built by James Robb, a wealthy banker, between 1852 and 1854. After a series of personal and financial misfortunes, Robb sold the mansion to John Burnside, a merchant who died in 1881.

The house was originally purchased to house the Tulane High School. President Dixon of Newcomb College was the original advocate for the purchase of Burnside Place for the university's women's college, but the Tulane Academic Board seemed uninterested in the idea. Naturally, when they themselves bought the property to be used for a Tulane Boys High School, he was annoyed.

However, Newcomb received the property after President Dixon managed to convince the Tulane board that Tulane did not really need a high school and that it was, "...beneath her dignity to have one," though by 1895, Dixon had to begin a high school for girls, which, would operate until 1920.

The campus on Washington Avenue also grew to include Warren House at 1234 Sixth Street, the Pottery Building at 2828 Campus Street, the Music School at 1224 Sixth Street, and the Household Arts Building at 1238 Washington Avenue.