John Taylor Johnston was born on April 8, 1820, the son of John Johnston, a prominent merchant banker in New York City. Johnston was the founding president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1870, as well as the President of the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ) from 1848 to 1877. He was born and grew up in Greenwich Village, and in 1839 graduated from New York University, an institution founded by his father and several other civic-minded New Yorkers. He later studied at Yale Law School, and was admitted to the bar in 1843. In 1856, Johnston constructed the first marble mansion in New York as his residence at 8 Fifth Avenue, just north of Washington Square. He died there on March 24, 1893.