The Precision Reactor Oscillation and Spectrum Experiment, PROSPECT, is designed to make both a precise measurement of the antineutrino spectrum from a highly-enriched uranium reactor and to probe eV-scale sterile neutrinos by searching for neutrino oscillations over meter-long baselines. PROSPECT utilizes a segmentedLi-doped liquid scintillator detector for both efficient detection of reactor antineutrinos through the inverse beta decay reaction and excellent background discrimination. PROSPECT is a movable 4-ton antineutrino detector covering distances of 7 m to 13 m from the High Flux Isotope Reactor core. It will probe the best-fit point of the disappearance experiments at 4 in 1 year and the favored regions of the sterile neutrino parameter space at more than in 3 years. PROSPECT will test the origin of spectral deviations observed in recent experiments, search for sterile neutrinos, and address the hypothesis of sterile neutrinos as an explanation of the reactor anomaly. This paper describes the design, construction, and commissioning of PROSPECT and reports first data characterizing the performance of the PROSPECT antineutrino detector.