The site was originally intended as the grounds of the National Capitol to be built in Quezon City to house the Congress of the Philippines. The location was also part of a larger National Government Center located around Elliptical Road and the Quezon City Quadrangle (made up of the North, South, East, and West Triangles). The NGC was meant to house the three branches of the Philippine government (legislative, executive, and judicial). While the cornerstone for the structure was laid on November 15, 1940, only the foundations were in place when construction was interrupted by the beginning of the Second World War in the Philippines. After World War II, President Sergio Osmeña issued an executive order stipulating the creation of a Quezon Memorial Committee to raise funds by public subscription to erect a memorial to his predecessor, President Manuel L. Quezon. A national contest for the Quezon Memorial Project was held 1951. Filipino architect Federico S. Ilustre's design won the contest. Aside from the monument itself, a complex of three buildings, including a presidential library, a museum, & a theater, were also planned to be erected.
The monument, which aims to honor President Quezon, consists of three vertical pylons (representing the three main geographic divisions of the country: Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao), 66 meters (217 ft) tall (Quezon's age when he died), surmounted by three mourning angels holding sampaguita (the national flower) wreaths sculpted by the Italian sculptor Monti. The three pylons would in turn circumscribe a drum-like two-story structure containing a gallery from which visitors could look down at Quezon's catafalque, modeled after Napoleon Bonaparte's in the Invalides. The gallery and the catafalque below are lit by an oculus, in turn reminiscent of Grant's Tomb.
Sarcophagus housing the remains of President Quezon. The remains were first interred at the Manila North Cemetery before being transferred in the memorial.
Construction of the Quezon Memorial was begun in 1952 but proceeded slowly, in part due to the cost of importing Carrara marble, brought in blocks and then carved and shaped on-site. There were also problems associated with the theft of the marble blocks and the management of memorial funds. The monument was finally completed in 1978, the centennial of Quezon's birth. His remains were reinterred in the memorial on August 19, 1979. It was during that time that by virtue of a presidential decree, President Ferdinand E. Marcos mandated the site as a National Shrine. The National Historical Institute manages, and has authority, over the monument itself, while the Quezon City government administers the park.
The planned auxiliary structures (presidential library, museum, and theater) were never built. Two smaller museums, one containing the presidential memorabilia of Quezon, and the other containing items on the history of Quezon City, were installed within the monument itself. In the 1980s, missing, lost, or incomplete bas reliefs for the outside of the memorial were installed. A development plan was also drawn up and partially implemented, including the building of recreation and dining structures.
On April 28, 2005, the remains of Mrs. Aurora Quezon, widow of the president, were solemnly reinterred in the memorial as well.