St Stephen's College was founded on 1 February 1881 by the Cambridge Mission to Delhi in conjunction with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. The Cambridge Mission comprised a number of Dons from various colleges at Cambridge University, and one of them, the (later Canon) Samuel Scott Allnutt was the founder and the first Principal of the College. There was a St. Stephen's School in Delhi, run by the S.P.G Mission since about 1854 . The Cambridge Brotherhood arrived in Delhi in 1877 to reinforce the teaching strength of this school. The Government had meanwhile, in 1879 closed down its Delhi College here, thus depriving the city and the neighboring districts of the benefits of higher education. St Stephen's College stepped into the breach in 1881. The College was in fact an extension of the school and for some time, Allnutt was the Principal of both the School and the College.
In the early years both the School and the College occupied rented premises in two mansions built in the old Mughal style in the bye lanes off Chandni Chowk, opposite the present Central Bank Building. The College was housed in Shish Mahal in Katra Khushhal Rai in Kinnari Bazar from 1881 to 1890. On 8 December , 1891 it moved into its own beautiful buildings designed by Col (later Sir) Swinton Jacob, Chief Engineer of Jaipur State. These buildings stand on both sides of the road in Kashmere Gate, close to the historic St. James' Church. On 1 October 1941, the college occupied its present home in the Delhi University Enclave. Designed by Walter George, it is an elegant two story red brick building around four spacious courts. Built on ground levels, it has beautiful lines all along and in other respects too, particularly in the subtle Mughal motifs, it is a fine piece of architecture. Many more buildings have been added since 1941, the most remarkable of them being the Chapel, again designed by Walter George and added in 1952.
Both teachers and students going out of St. Stephen's into the larger world outside have made significant contributions to various walks of our national life: education, art, science, law, commerce, administration, sports, journalism and politics
The College motto is "Ad Dei Gloriam" the Latin for "To the Glory of God".
The College colors are martyrs' red and Cambridge blue