The Memorial Arch was erected as a memorial to the missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions who lost their lives in the Boxer uprising in China in 1900. The cornerstone of the Arch was laid October 16, 1902, and it was dedicated May 14, 1903. The architect was Mr. J.L. Silsbee, of Chicago. The construction is of Indiana limestone. Two bronze tablets perpetuate the names of the 13 missionaries and of their five children who were massacred by the Boxers.
The Memorial Arch cost $20,720. Of this amount, $20,000 was the gift of Mr. D. Willis James, and the remainder was contributed in small amounts by the students of the college and other friends. Oberlin was chosen as the proper place for this monument because all but four of those who suffered martyrdom were Oberlin students or members of the families of these students.
The entrance to the Arch is located west of the campus on Tappan Square, at the center. At the time of its dedication, the arch served as the main entrance to the campus from the west.
It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (1978), and is listed by the city of Oberlin as an Oberlin City Landmark (1997).