The Palmer Engineering Building was constructed in 1940-41 to more adequately house the College of Engineering, which had grown rapidly in the preceding decade. Designed by Reno architect Russell Mills and built in the Jeffersonian Revival style similar to the Mackay School of Mines and Mackay Science buildings, Palmer Engineering was the last building on campus to follow the classical styling and to be placed according to the old campus master plan.
The original educational objective of the State of Nevada was to provide its citizens with education in "mechanic arts" along with the other priorities of mining and agriculture. This requirement of the State University was not, by the 1930s, being met, due to a need for modernization of the program. The School of Engineering's "Class A" rating was withdrawn because of inadequate floor space and equipment, the absence of a hydraulics laboratory, and the low salaries paid to instructors.
In 1938, the Board of Regents, the governing body of all Nevada higher education institutions, recommended to the state legislature that money be spent on a new engineering building. The legislature appropriated half the money needed for the project, along with half the money for a new gymnasium, in hopes of securing Public Works Administration grants to match the funds appropriated by the state. Due to the delay in funding, construction was not begun until late in 1940. When the building was completed in 1941, the new facility with its hydraulics laboratory brought the school's rating back to "A."
The new building housed the Departments of Civil and Mechanical Engineering. Laboratories were located in the basement, with offices and drafting and lecture rooms on the first and second floors.
Palmer served as the home for most of the engineering college until the construction of the Scrugham Engineering and Mines Building in 1963. The building was named in 1959 for Stanley G. Palmer (1887-1975), University of Nevada graduate, professor of electrical engineering from 1915-1941 and Dean of the College of Engineering from 1941-1957.