The construction of the building began in 1917, designed by the architects Christian Morgenstierne (1880–1967) and Arne Eide. The original owner was Sam Eyde, founder of Norsk Hydro. He sold the incomplete building after one year. Years later, still incomplete, it was taken over by the Norwegian government. In 1941, it was finished and furnished as a residence for Maria and Vidkun Quisling. They lived there until the latter was arrested in 1945. During this period the villa was known as Gimlé.
After Maria Quisling had been evicted, General Andrew Thorne, the commander-in-chief of Allied forces in Norway, together with his staff, used Villa Grande as their headquarters from 22 May 1945. They stayed until 31 October, when Thorne went back to Great Britain.
Today, the Villa Grande houses the Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities.