The Connecticut ghost town which made the news and captured imaginations over the past month was sold via auction on Thursday afternoon. Just in time for Halloween, an unnamed buyer placed the winning bid of $1.9 million and won the entire town of Johnsonville in East Haddam, Connecticut. The opening bid for the town started at $800,000, rose to $1.2 million but it was not until the end of the auction that the bidding picked up and the high bid was reached.
The history of the Connecticut town dates back to 1842 when it was built as a mill town in conjunction with the Neptune Twine Mill. The town was prosperous into the mid-1900’s when the Mill closed down and people moved away to find jobs and new opportunities. The town sat abandoned for a short time until Raymond Schmitt purchased the town in the 1960’s. Schmitt was the owner of an aerospace equipment manufacturer and was considered to be an eccentric individual. His original intentions for the town was to turn into a type of Connecticut tourist attraction but those plans never actually happened. One of the things Schmitt did for Johnsonville was add vintage buildings that he purchased and had moved on the 62 acres of land.
Schmitt actually transformed the small town in Connecticut into a type of Victorian village. His additions to the town included both a stable and a chapel. While he never officially made a tourist destination out of Johnsonville, he did allow people to visit the property and use the buildings. In 1994, Schmitt put the property up for sale but it wasn’t until after his death in 1998 that any type of sale occurred. Schmitt’s heirs ended up selling the antiques from within the buildings but never received the $3 million bid they were looking for and pulled it from auction.
In 2008, the ghost town in Connecticut was sold to MJABC LLC, a hotel developer for $2.5 million. The company is owned William Meyer and Richard Jabara and their original plans for Johnsonville included restoring the town and turning it into a destination with a spa and a 55 and over living community. Their plans were never able to come to fruition due to economic downturns and issues with public sewers and water in the area.
Over the years the men thought up a number of different plans but none of those plans materialized and while the two consider themselves to be hotel operators they are not developers. Meyer and Jabara decided that after years of being unable to transform Johnsonville, it was time to list the property and let someone else try their hand at developing the land. The auction for the town started on October 28 and went for two days with the ending happening on Thursday, one day before Halloween.
The winning bidders receive a property that is over 60 acres and includes a covered bridge as well as a waterfall. Buildings on the property include a general store, post office, the Victorian stable that Schmitt had moved to the town, two churches and assorted other buildings. While the ghost town of Connecticut has sold to a new buyer, no one knows what is in store for the 172 year old town of Johnsonville.
By Kimberley Spinney
Photos by Rick Harris – Flickr License