Marilyn and Carl Johnson, Galena

2020 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Joe Antunovich Award for Leadership, Lifetime Achievement

Carl and Marilyn Johnson have dedicated their lives to preserving the history and heritage of Galena since they first moved to their beloved Illinois town in 1970. Their 50 years of preservation practice and promotion has created a community culture supportive of saving places in the small historic community. The Johnsons co-founded the Galena Foundation and have volunteered their time on countless local boards and committees. They have led by example, using whatever resources they had at a given moment to help revitalize and restore historic places in their community. Their work has also demonstrated the cultural and economic impact of preservation in Galena and the couple have dedicated their lives to advocacy, education and practice in support of that belief.  Thanks to the Johnsons, Galena is today the textbook historic preservation community that can be enjoyed by residents and visitors for generations to come.


Beth Baranski, The Galena Foundation (nominated the Johnsons for the preservation award)

The foreword in Carl Johnson’s “The Galena Book for Coloring: a coloring book about the history and buildings of Galena, Illinois,” reads: “Galena, a well preserved enclave of the nineteenth century, is located in the rolling, wooded hills of northwest Illinois. The city was a booming lead mining camp in the 1820’s and a busy river port and commercial center in the 1840’s. Ulysses S. Grant left Galena in 1861 to serve in the Civil War. He returned in triumph after the war, only to leave again to serve two terms as President of the United States.” Carl & Marilyn moved their family to Galena in 1970 and dedicated themselves to this special community. They recognized the importance of historic preservation to Galena’s future vitality and they have supported preservation from many angles over the years. They have played an immeasurable role in Galena’s success as a nationally-recognized example of historic preservation and as a visitor destination.

How have the Johnsons impacted their community?

Beth Baranski, The Galena Foundation (nominated the Johnsons for the preservation award)

Carl & Marilyn have led by example. They have personally invested in preservation, and they have done the heavy lifting on boards and committees that support preservation. There are tangible monuments to their work in the buildings they have touched, Carl’s artwork, the research they have done and the institutions they helped create and support. But perhaps more important is the inspirational impact they have had on others in the community. There is an established sense of the value of preservation to Galena, and a desire to defend that value when it appears to be threatened. The Johnsons have helped set the preservation culture in Galena through their extraordinary dedication to this cause. Perhaps the most obvious example of this can be said to be their son, Adam, who lives in Galena and is a preservation architect.

(Photos courtesy of the Johnsons)

Learn more

Attend the 2020 awards ceremony!


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