Born in Glasgow, the son of steam hammer smith, John Rowan,
he trained as an engineer and was apprenticed to
Clarke & Bell
becoming their chief draughtsman and later a partner.
He set up on his own as an architect and engineer in 1873,
formed a partnership with James McKissack (c. 1844-1915) until
1890, then worked with his son Andrew Rowan.
Best known for his churches, his early work was strongly
Alexander 'Greek' Thomson
, as at Pollokshields West
Church, 614 Shields Road (1875-9), but in later years his work was
predominantly Romanesque and Gothic.
Two of his finest essays in these styles, the Wynd Church, 500
Crown Street (1888-9) and Pollokshields Glencairn (1890-1) were
destroyed in the 1980s, whilst his unsuccessful competition design
for Belmont Street Church (1892) was adapted for his Cathcart South
Church, 40-2 Clarkston Road (1893-4).
He also became involved with the philanthropist, William Quarrier, and
designed The Childrens Homes of Scotland for him at Bridge of Weir.
A little known work is his monument to James Shaw in Glagow's
Necropolis, which he signed in almost indecipherable Gothic lettering,
and which was carved with the symbols of the Agnus Dei and the Evangelists (1906).
Rowan's work outwith Scotland includes a hospital on the Isle of Man.
Elected an FRIBA
, he died at his home in Lyndoch Crescent, Glasgow, and was buried in Cathcart Cemetery,
his monument having been designed by himself and closely related, stylistically, to his Shaw Monument
in the Necropolis.