EAST HADDAM, CONNECTICUT — This is the village of Johnsonville.
In the 1960’s, it was a tourist attraction in Moodus, Connecticut that has turned into a ghost town for decades — but now, there is new hope.
A Philippine mega church is set to bring new life to this abandoned Victorian-style village.
The Iglesia ni Cristo church bought this 62-acre property from a Connecticut hotel company, Meyer Jabara Hotels, for $1.85 million dollars.
While plans for the village have yet to be finalized, a church member told ABS-CBN News off-camera that the property will be restored for church members to live and work just like the new era communities in the Philippines.
Church officials at their Bayonne, New Jersey church have declined an on-camera interview pending permission from their district minister.
This is not the first time the Philippine mega church bought an abandoned property. In 2011, Iglesia ni Cristo bought the town of scenic in South Dakota.
But the Associated Press recently reported that according to Shannon Rittburger, equalization director for Pennington County, nothing has been done with the scenic property until today — and the INC has not even requested for tax exemption.
A church spokeswoman also told AP that the church is focused on the community rather than property development at this time.
Meanwhile, this microcosm of New England architectural style remains uninhabited except for some curious passersby such as engineer Michael Rose who is interested in local history.
He has visited Johnsonville two years ago when it was for auction, but he’s back after seeing the latest story on the news.
“I know they had some trouble rebuilding this area in the past, something about sewage, like I know they want to put a nursing home and restore the buildings, use those as common spaces,” said Michael Larose, preservation and architecture enthusiast.
According to its history , the village was originally developed as the Neptune Twine and cord mill factory in the 1832, and was followed by a series of unfortunate events.
The Triton Mill was destroyed in a fire in 1924. In 1972, the Neptune mill was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.
In the 1965, a somewhat eccentric owner of an aerospace equipment manufacturer named Raymond Schmitt turned the village into an outdoor museum of his collection of quaint, Victorian-style buildings.
“He made a lot of money and was interested in history, so as these buildings were getting torn down, he would move them here,” said Larose.
In 1994, Schmitt shut down the attraction, after a disagreement with local zoning officials.
In 2013, the property was listed for sale for $3 million dollars but was recently listed at $1.8 million dollars.
Michael says he has only one wish for the new owners.
“For me its about preservation of history, and keeping this place from falling down, one thing that kill old building, like anything else is occupancy, as soon as they lose their occupants, stop being heated, cooled, people maintaining them, they fall apart, such a shame for something like this go to waste…”
According to INC members, this ghost town will be restored into a bustling community of Iglesia ni Cristo members and possibly turn it into a farming community in the future.