Along with Lincoln Hall and Morrill Hall, Manzanita Hall is one of three remaining buildings on the University of Nevada campus constructed prior to 1900. Like its neighboring dormitory, Lincoln Hall, Manzanita (originally named the girls' Cottage) was built in 1896 from plans designed by the San Francisco firm Percy and Hamilton.

Manzanita Hall was just half its present size and L-shaped when first erected on the west edge of campus, on a parcel of fifteen acres newly purchased to expand the University. An addition constructed in 1910 added a mirror image of the original south arm of the building to the north side. A wooden porch, added to the east side around 1910, was removed during remodeling in the 1950s; the porch ghost is still visible.

In 1905, a dining hall was added between Manzanita and Lincoln Halls, and in 1907, the three buildings were connected by boardwalks. The living complex occupied an isolated spot on what was then the extreme northwest corner of the campus near the State Road, what is now known as Virginia Street. The placement of these two dormitories reflected the then-current educational ideal of the "cottage system" of housing, a scattering of home-like buildings in a less-formal naturalistic setting. Of this group, only the dormitories remain today.

Before its closure in 2015, Manzanita Hall housed 97 women in double and single rooms. On the north side, it is attached to Juniper Hall, a co-ed dormitory. Residents of Manzanita Hall enjoyed a "Victorian" atmosphere and a lovely lounge, complete with a grand piano and a view of Manzanita Lake. Manzanita Hall remained a very popular choice for academically oriented female residents. The building is currently slated for renovation into office space.