The building is named in honour of Ellis
Rowan (1848-1922), a distinguished wildflower painter.
This building was the first to be built on the Botanic Gardens site in 1966. It then housed the administration offices as well as the original Herbarium. In 1970 the horticultural research laboratory was added, completing the architect's original design for the southern 'raised roof' part of the building. All of these functions have moved to more recently constructed buildings.
It now houses the National Plant Photographic Index; the display, interpretive and public relations units of the ANBG; the Fauna of Australia unit of ABRS, together with their graphics and illustration studio. The Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC) also have their offices here.