By: Megan Montemarano
Nestled in the Moodus section of East Haddam, Conn., lies a once-thriving mill town that’s now vacant, but oozing with great potential. The village of Johnsonville comprises 62 acres of blank space on the Connecticut landscape—a deemed ghost town with an interesting story to tell.
The abandoned village, which is now listed for sale with Old Lyme agent Sherri Milkie for $1,900,000, was originally founded in the early 19th century. It served as an industrial town, using its prime location near the Moodus River to power its numerous twine mills. In the 1960s, the property’s journey took an eccentric turn, when Raymond Schmitt, owner of AGC Corporation, an aerospace equipment manufacturer, purchased the land with visions of offering visitors a unique tourist attraction. His plan was to invest in a number of vintage buildings, some of which included a stable, chapel, old post office, general store and school house, to recreate an 18th-century Victorian village. Open to the public, the time-traveling property hosted special events, charities and even some weddings.
Following Schmitt’s death in 1998, Johnsonville was purchased by Danbury, Conn.-based hotel management firm Meyer Jabara Hotels, but still has remained essentially uninhabited for over 20 years. The hotel group explored various ideas for restoration—a senior community or boutique hotel and restaurant, even a spa retreat—but never completed any projected plans.
“If one takes the time out to visit and fully assess the sweeping land and opportunities of Johnsonville, it’s impossible not to envision its future,” said Milkie. “The quaint town has absolutely fabulous buildings and homes throughout, and is located in a beautiful part of Connecticut. I call it a place full of potential life—the perfect chance to open a local brewpub, farm-to-table restaurant and so much more.”
According to a recent article in Zillow, it’s rumored that ghosts of mill workers and former owner Raymond Schmitt haunt the premises, making their presence known on the land they once so adored. Some may even recognize Johnsonville from both the big and small screens, as it served as the setting for Billy Joel’s hit video “The River of Dreams” in 1993, and was featured in the 2014 movie Freedom, starring Cuba Gooding Jr., and the horror movie Deep in the Darkness, which centers on a small town full of dark secrets.
Between the eerie stories and vacant setting, it’s not surprising that Johnsonville is often regarded as “the haunted ghost town in Connecticut.” But if you dare to face it, the New England town could be harboring much more than just ghosts. A whole community that could be yours, Johnsonville is a blank page ready to move on to its next new and exciting chapter— whatever that may be.