The station is located in Northeast Washington, on an elevated platform crossing Rhode Island Avenue, with its entrance near 5th Street. Service began on March 27, 1976 as one of the first stations in the system. Rhode Island Ave–Brentwood has the highest elevation of any station in the Metro system.
From the time the station opened in 1976 until late 2004, the station was known simply as Rhode Island Avenue. At that time, the station was renamed Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood in recognition of the Brentwood neighborhood in which the station is located.