Architect, designer, and painter Harvey Ellis was born in Rochester, New York in 1852. From 1879 to 1885, he and his brother, Charles Ellis, ran an architectural firm in Rochester that focused on residential and commercial buildings. In 1885, he won first prize for his design of a monument to General Ulysses Grant, sponsored by the American Architect and Building News.
He went on to work as a designer and architectural draughtsman for a series of architectural firms in the Midwestern United States, including LeRoy Sunderland Buffington (1887–89, Minneapolis, MN); Eckel & Mann (1889–91, St. Joseph, MO); and George R. Mann (1891–93, St. Louis, MO).
Ellis returned to Rochester in 1893 and focused on moderately avant-garde painting, designs for stained glass, and graphic design for posters and magazine covers. In 1897, he helped found the Rochester Arts and Crafts Society. In 1903, just a year before his death, he moved to Syracuse, New York at the invitation of American furniture designer and publisher Gustav Stickley, where he worked as a designer and wrote multiple articles for The Craftsman magazine. Ellis passed away in 1904 in Syracuse.