Johnson Park, now part of the West Village, rarely ever sees a For Sale sign on It. Johnson Park is the First Park in the City of Buffalo from land donated by our first mayor, Ebenezer Johnson in 1832, and by 1845 it had evolved into a trend-setting and fashionable residential area. After Mayor Johnson passed away, the site of his "Cottage," a twenty-four room Palladian Villa on the park, became the site for the Female Academy of Buffalo, the first institute of higher learning for women in the country. In addition, Frederick Law Olmsted's 1876 map of parkland in the city of Buffalo indicates that he redesigned the Johnson Park Green, and this design was eventually incorporated into his overall plan for the City.
Today, Johnson Park is the oldest residential neighborhood in Buffalo, and one of the few communities in the nation to have achieved triple designation as an historic district under the City of Buffalo, New York State's Landmark and Preservation Ordinance and the federal National Register of Historic Places. A series of disastrous fires in the City of Buffalo at this time forced City officials to pass an 1850 law requiring that all residential buildings in certain areas of density be constructed of brick. As a result, 83% of the buildings on Johnson Park have maintained their original brick structure, resulting in a tremendous contribution to the community, providing respite for strolling, picnicking, and gatherings.
51 Johnson Park, a 2 1/2-storey brick house in the Johnson Park neighborhood of Buffalo*, was once the home of President Grover Cleveland - living in the house during his University at Buffalo school days, where he had taken law classes. The house was built in 1866 in an Italianate style, and in 1876 the Greek Revival front porch was added.
As a seventeen-year-old, Cleveland was working at Holland Patent Company in New Jersey when an elder in his church offered to pay for his college education if he would promise to become a minister, but Cleveland declined. Instead, the following spring Cleveland decided to make his way west to the city of Cleveland, Ohio. He stopped first in Buffalo, New York, where his Uncle, Lewis W. Allen lived. Allen dissuaded Cleveland from continuing west, and offered him a job arranging his livestock company, doing, herdsmen books. Allen was an important man in Buffalo, and he introduced his nephew to influential men at the time, including partners in the law firm of Rogers, Bowen, and Rogers. Cleveland later took a clerkship with the firm, and was admitted to the Bar in 1859 - in 1872 he took office as sheriff of Erie County. He was elected mayor of Buffalo in 1881, then Governor of New York in 1882, and president in 1884 and 1892.
No. 51 Johnson Park is a brick Italianate style home built circa 1865. In April 1868, it became the home of Dr. Horace Briggs who remained in the home until he died in 1913 at the age of 95. Dr. Briggs was a famous educator. He moved to Buffalo in 1861 to teach classical languages of Latin and Greek at the Buffalo Central High School, but was lured away in 1863 to become the principal of the new private Boys School, later known as the Buffalo Classical School. Begun in the gardener's cottage of Rumsey Park, the school was formed to prepare the boys of Buffalo's elite families for college, primarily Yale. Briggs remained at the Buffalo Classical School until he retired in 1885. The school was shuttered shortly after he retired. Briggs enjoyed traveling extensively and was keenly interested in Greek history and culture. He visited Greece several times.
Briggs knowledge and interest in Greek culture** is reflected in his home at 51 Johnson Park, the façade of which is an imposing Greek Revival temple style. Its projecting portico has four two-storey Doric columns supporting a pediment with a round window, called an oculus. While the portico of a Greek Revival mansion typically had six columns, when adapted for a smaller house like 51 Johnson Park, it was reduced to four, known as tetrastyle. The home has a classic Greek Revival doorway. It is topped by a transom and sidelights of simple square panes of glass surrounded by pilasters and a pediment. The entrance is pushed to the façade's right side, leaving more wall space for the parlor. An original Victorian iron fence adds to the home's elegance.
Briggs loved his home, living there for 45 years. Afterwards, it continued to be occupied by his daughter Dora (Mrs. Charles J. North). The twentieth century was not kind to the lovely Johnson Park neighborhood. At around 1910, South Elmwood Avenue was cut through the park and shortly thereafter the new Central High School was constructed on the south side of the park, altering its residential character. The formerly proud houses on Johnson Park fell into rooming houses or worse. When interest in historic preservation and the renewal of Buffalo's old neighborhoods began to be rekindled in the 1960s, Johnson Park became one of the first sites of renewal.
No. 51 Johnson Park had new life with urban pioneer owners in the late 1960s. They installed new windows and installed new plumbing and heating. While the house was renovated, more work needed to be done. The house was again abandoned and was placed for tax auction in 2011. The present owners have made extensive repairs to the house and have reconfigured the interior into a primary owners unit and an in-law quarters. Floor to ceiling windows dominate the front parlor as does a fireplace. A second massive wood burning fireplace is found in the dining room. A new kitchen is found behind the dining room. In the front entry hall, a cherry newel post and lovely staircase invites you to the second floor where several bedrooms can be found.
With the improvements made in the house, it is ready for longevity into the twenty-first century.
*Christopher wrote: "In 1824 surgeon and Dr. Ebenezer Johnson purchased land in the Village of Buffalo at the wilds above Chippewa. In 1828 he built a stone Palladian villa on a 25-acre site west of Delaware Avenue. In the rear of the estate he landscaped garden pleasure grounds. The gardens, complete with a lake and swans, were the scene of summer socials of the 1830s, attended by guests of Dr. Johnson, who in 1832 became the first mayor of the new City of Buffalo. After Dr. Johnson died in 1849, his estate was divided. The rear of Johnson's estate was dedicated as Washington Park in 1851, the first of Buffalo's small parks that would be surrounded by handsome homes. From the mid-1850s onward, homes were built on both sides of the park from Delaware Avenue, the north side being called "Park Place" and the south side being called "Johnson Place."
**Thomas Jefferson proposed Roman architecture as a suitable style for his vision of America, but it was the Greek Revival which proved to be a popular second choice. Greek architecture symbolized the earliest democracy in the history of mankind. There was renewed interest in America during the 1820s when the Greek war for independence from Turkey engaged American sympathies and made all things Greek a national fashion. No. 51 Johnson Park's Greek Revival façade may have been a later addition; it likely was an Italianate twin to the house next door at 55 Johnson Park.
Following is a more detailed description:
This completely restored Georgian Federal Style brick home, is currently designed as an owners home with an in-law quarters or corporate rental. This 2-Family, off of Elmwood Avenue on the park which is located at 51 Johnson Park, Buffalo NY 14201, has 2 residences, each having 2 bedrooms, 1 1/2 Baths, and is approximately 2,802 square feet of living space and a property lot size of 3,200 sq.ft. and was built in 1865.
Entering this historic home through the old iron fence and on to the south facing well-landscaped lawn and veranda, having 4 giant doric columns, you come into the home that enjoys a grand foyer, flowing into the large living room has crown moldings, newly refinished oak-pegged floors throughout with radiant heating, a doubled columned fireplace and floor-to-ceiling Southern-style windows. You then lead into to the formal dining area with crystal chandelier and a wood burning fireplace, traditional plate rails. This area is then served by a boutique garden with fountain, brick patio, handcrafted fencing and fire-pit area. Off of the dining area is a library and wet-bar. From there you then enter a large entertaining kitchen with white marble counters, artisan lighting, light cherry cabinets and stainless steel appliances and an exposed brick wall. A first floor half bath is also there. Heading to the second floor with an original cherry newell post. You enter the office-family lounge with wet bar, that has on either side large bedrooms, one with a nursery or dressing room attached. Finally, a beautiful bath with tile and marble that has an incredible rainfall shower with 4 additional jets in a round glass curving door, built for 2. This bath contains second floor laundry for ease of handling.
The in-law rental is off of the boutique garden area which you access from the side of the home. Entering the bright large living area with its new old-style maple floors and its Grommet kitchen, again with white marble and light cherry finished cabinets, stainless steel appliances and under cabinet lighting and a first floor half bath. Heading upstairs you come to a master bedroom, and next a second bedroom which could also be a home office and the large bath with its own second floor laundry.
The nice thing is that with a turn of two knobs this home could be a single with 4 bedrooms, 2 full and 2 half baths, office, family room, nursery and summer kitchen for barbecuing.
51 Johnson Park Buffalo, NY 14222
Property is listed at $289,900
Get connected: Salvatore A Zambito | 716-553-6911