The Cook County Historical Society operates the
Johnson Heritage Post Art Gallery located at
115 West Wisconsin Street in Grand Marais.
Photo Superior Winter by Travis Novitsky
Anna Carolina Johnson
The Johnson Heritage Post Art Gallery’s west wing is dedicated to the original artwork of Anna C. Johnson, mother of the donor of the Gallery, Lloyd K. Johnson.
Frosted Strawberry Leaves by Melissa Anderson
The permanent exhibit is a lasting testimony to her leadership in the arts. Anna typified the strength of early 20th century women pioneers, and she gave this raw frontier her influence as an art teacher. Later she operated a popular gift shop in the original log trading post. This was on the current site of the Art Gallery. Her gift shop featured her paintings and etchings as well as her ceramics and stained glass. Anna produced and sold many delicately painted ceramic and china items, fired in her own kiln. At least one of her Tiffany-style lamps is still in use.
Born in Arvika, Varmland, Sweden, in 1881, with her parents she emigrated to Manistee, Michigan, when she was ten and later became a frequent visitor to the North Shore area at the turn of the century. Before her 1907 marriage to Charles J. Johnson, her artistic interests had been stimulated and guided by an older brother. In addition, she had some more formal, classical training in painting as a student at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. While her husband’s sincere interests in painting and music had long been characteristic of his colorful, bachelor life style, Anna reinforced and deepened those interests in him and for the entire town of Grand Marais. Interpreting scenes and the relationships between people and nature along the North Shore and up the rugged Gunflint Wagon Road (now the Gunflint Trail), she left many paintings and drawings, many of which are displayed at the Johnson Heritage Post. Others are preserved in homes throughout the country.
After a brief hospitalization in Duluth when she was 64 years old, Anna Johnson passed away May 30, 1944. Her entrepreneur-businessman husband followed her in death ten months later.
The first log Johnson trading Post was consumed by fire in 1926. The temporary replacement building was used as a gift shop for six decades, until the Johnson’s son, Lloyd K. , donated the property to the Cook County Historical Society in 1989. His generosity, along with his desire to honor his mother as a symbol of all area pioneers, has resulted in the present building, a near replica of the original that was constructed in 1906. Lloyd K. Johnson passed away in 2006.
In addition to the permanent collection of Anna Johnson paintings, the Johnson Heritage Post Gallery promotes the cultural heritage of the arts in Cook County and the North Shore through high quality exhibits of the work of artists and artisans past and present. The gallery has six to eight different exhibits each year.