Johnson Heritage Post Art Gallery

The History

The first log Johnson’s Trading Post was consumed by fire in 1926. The temporary replacement building was used for a variety of retail purposes including the sales of Anna’s artworks for six decades. Over time, that building was no longer used and became dilapidated - and was torn down. In 1989, Lloyd K. Johnson made his gift to the Cook County Historical Society with the stipulation that a new log building be built to closely resemble the original trading post and that his mother’s paintings be permanently displayed in one wing. His generosity, along with his desire to honor his mother (Anna C. Johnson) as a symbol of all area pioneers, has resulted in the present building. Lloyd K. Johnson passed away in 2006.

Lloyd’s nephew, Duane Johnson from Duluth, was the architect of the building and worked with Glenn Peterson, a local contractor, and Mike Senty, owner of “Senty Handcrafted Log Homes” located in Grand Marais, to build the structure. The logs used in the construction of the building were lodgepole pine from Montana. Each tree stood for at least three years after being killed by a fungus deposited under the bark by the Mountain Pine Beetle. The interior was finished with a white stain to allow the natural color to come through.

In addition to the permanent collection of the Anna Johnson paintings, the gallery seeks to promote public awareness of 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 original Johnson's Trading Post

                         The original Johnson's Trading Post

Anna C. Johnson 1881-1944

       Anna C. Johnson with her pet moose in downtown Grand Marais

       Anna C. Johnson with her pet moose in downtown Grand Marais

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. 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 which 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 Johnson 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, she migrated with her parents to Manistee, Michigan, when she was 10, and later became a frequent visitor to this 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 lifestyle, 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 - 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 63 years old, Anna Johnson passed away May 30, 1944. Her entrepreneur-businessman husband followed her in death 10 months later. 

JHP Art Gallery Today


The JHP Art Gallery has had many changes over the past 10 years. Recent developments include an addition to the building with archival storage and a full kitchen in 2012. The Gallery has also been brought under the unified management of "Historic Cook County." Over the past two years the Gallery has expanded its gift shop, offering locally made art, cards, and fiber items from the Northwoods Fiber Guild. Also, the Gallery now offers private rentals of its facility - whether for a private Christmas party, wedding, or just a meeting please - view our Facility Rental Application for more information. Additionally, the JHP Art Gallery will now be the primary host and coordinator of the Plein Air Grand Marais - a 7 day painting competition held within Cook County followed by an exhibition at the Gallery. To learn                                                                                                                  more about Plein Air please click here.

The Future of the JHP Art Gallery

           Possible JHP Art Gallery front yard landscaping for the future.

          Possible JHP Art Gallery front yard landscaping for the future.

The Gallery is continuing its growth with the current installation of a PA/Sound System to help with community talks, historical demonstrations, and art gatherings. Over the next few years there will be improvements to the front yard including a space to sit and take in the pristine view of Lake Superior among other additions. There will also be capital improvements made to the facility in the ongoing care of the log structure and to support the needs of the Society. The Gallery will continue its mission of having quality exhibitions of works from regional artists, past and present however, hours will be year-to support the community, its artists, and to give residents and visitors the opportunity to view beautiful artworks in the winter months. If you yourself are an artist or you know of an artist who would be a good candidate to exhibit please send them our way - to view the Exhibitor Application please click here. Currently the Gallery is in the works of creating an exhibition on the history of art in Cook County to be displayed in the Gallery.