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From 1880 to Today: Johnson Park was backyard of Buffalo’s first mayor

Chronicles continues a weekly look back at an illustrated map of Buffalo from 1880 and examines how the features on that map have — or haven't — changed over 138 years. Click here to explore the map.

The Johnson in Johnson Park is Dr. Ebenezer Johnson, the physician and pharmacist who served as the first mayor of the City of Buffalo in 1832.

His house sat at on Delaware Avenue between the two Johnson Park streets, which then was just north of the Chippewa Street village limits. Johnson’s land stretched from Delaware to as far back as the neighborhood goes now west of Elmwood Avenue.

In a 1910 edition of her “Buffalo in Olden Times” column in the Buffalo Times, Grace Carew Sheldon describes what Johnson Park looked like 80 years earlier when Buffalo was quickly growing from a small village to a sizable city.

“The picturesque stone house called 'The Johnson Cottage,' when built, was in the country. On all sides extended meadows and the park was plentifully stocked with deer and rabbits, the grounds being as beautiful as a botanical garden. In fact, downtown residents, who often went out into this quiet distant precinct, looked upon it as a miniature zoo, and quite the show place of the town.”

The place was called “Johnson Park” almost from the beginning, and Buffalo’s first mayor opened his country property for all to enjoy.

Well, almost all.

Ebenezer Johnson's ad from the Buffalo Patriot in 1832.

In May 1832, the same month he became mayor, Johnson took out an ad in the Buffalo Patriot and Commercial Advertiser — basically telling the kids of the brand-new City of Buffalo to “stay off my lawn.”

“Caution,” Ebenezer Johnson’s best Scrooge impression starts. “Many boys have been in the habit of visiting my park on Sunday for the purpose of playing ball, and in some instances taking with them dogs, with which they have pursued my deer. This is to warn them that such offenses will no longer be tolerated.

"I have the names of no less than 40 persons who have been identified there. In future, all men or boys who shall be found to have entered that enclosure without permission of the gardener will be indiscriminately prosecuted. Parents and guardians who allow their sons or wards to play ball on the sabbath will do well to keep them from my grounds.”

Mayor Johnson's home was razed in 1917 and a new furniture and drapery showroom for Mitchell, Parker, & Brown was built in its place. That building has now stood on the spot about 20 years longer than old Dr. Johnson’s cottage did.

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