John Arnold Bower was born in Chicago, the son of Joseph N. Bower, and graduated from Parker Technical High School there. He began his architectural education at the Armour Institute of Technology, where he attended night classes while working as a draftsman in Chicago firms. He came to Philadelphia in 1922 to study at the University of Pennsylvania, completing a B. Arch. in 1926. He taught rendering part-time at Penn while still a student and won the Arthur Spayd Brooke Memorial Prize gold medal in his senior year. He was offered a fellowship for a master's degree but chose instead to begin working immediately after graduation. Between 1926 and 1928 he worked for Thomas, Martin & Kirkpatrick
and George Lovatt, Sr.
Between roughly 1928 and 1936 Bower worked in partnership with Harold Carswell
(another veteran of Lovatt's practice) and Dominique Berninger
, and then, between 1936 and about 1940, with Berninger alone. Bower served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and returned to independent practice in 1946. He headed his own firm until his retirement in 1972. Bower joined the national AIA in 1930, and was a member of the Philadelphia Chapter. He was named to emeritus status by 1972.
Domestic commissions in historicizing modes make up the majority of his work, although his practice included a range of building types. Bower also completed several restoration projects for Independent National Historical Park in Philadelphia.