The Towne Building is one of the Cope and Stewardson designs that established the architectural character of the University's large laboratory buildings such as Leidy Laboratories and the John Morgan Building. The design is styled in the manner of English classicism of the seventeenth century with clear references to the work of Christopher Wren. It is a major feature of Smith Walk and 33rd Street. When opened in 1906, it housed the machine shops and related facilities used to train students in modern industrial practice. It remains the home of the School of Engineering and Applied Science administrative offices and of several of its departments. Towne houses the SEAS Library. The building is named to honor the memory of the Philadelphia industrialist, trustee and donor, John Henry Towne.
The Towne Building is within the National Register's, University of Pennsylvania's Historic District.