In 1865, cultural and scientific personalities such as Constantin Esarcu, V. A. Urechia, and Nicolae Cretulescu founded the Romanian Atheneum Cultural Society. To serve its purposes, the Romanian Athenaeum, a building dedicated to art and science, would be built in Bucharest.
The building was designed by the French architect Albert Galleron, built on a property that had belonged to the Vacarescu family and inaugurated in 1888, although work continued until 1897.
A portion of the construction funds was raised by public subscription in a 28-year-long effort, of which the slogan is still remembered today: "Donate one leu for the Ateneu!" Extensive reconstruction and restoration work has been conducted in 1992 by a Romanian construction company and restoration painter Silviu Petrescu, saving the building from collapse.