Historic abandoned village on the market
By Jason Harris - Staff Writer
East Haddam - posted Wed., Jan. 23, 2013
Historic Johnsonville, in the Moodus section of East Haddam, is for sale for $2,900,000. The property, consisting of 61.9 acres, is listed with Chozick Realty, Inc. According to the company’s website, “the site offers diversity for development with permitted uses of single family, multifamily to include market rate and affordable senior housing, arts/entertainment centers, B&B, inn, restaurant/banquet facility and schools.”
Though Chozick describes the property as “an assemblage of eight contiguous parcels,” according to the town assessor’s records, the land and buildings actually consist of seven parcels, all owned by MJABC LLC, a foreign limited liability company with a principal address in West Palm Beach, Fla.
In 1965, businessman Raymond Schmitt purchased the buildings and 100 acres comprising Johnsonville, according to his obituary that ran in the “Hartford Courant.” He owned additional open land adjacent to Johnsonville as well. At the time, according to an article in the November 2000 issue of Business New Haven, “the village was a working mill town, and Schmitt maintained it as such until the mill itself was hit by lightning in the 1970s, destroying the structure.” Schmitt then purchased additional buildings and moved them to the site, restoring the Victorian village. Schmitt then opened Johnsonville at Christmas and at other occasions, creating wonderland scenes in the windows for visitors to enjoy.
After his death in 1998, Schmitt’s property was put on the market. The state bought more than half of it, creating Machimoodus State Park, according to state Rep. Melissa Hoy Ziobron (R-34).
According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s website, Machimoodus State Park is made up of 300 acres.
The remainder of the property, on which Johnsonville sits, sold to MJABC LLC for $2.4 million, according to Business New Haven.
In November 2004, MJABC LLC filed an application with the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control indicating its plans for the property. The application states, “the applicant has proposed 140 age-restricted and non-age restricted residential units as well as a restaurant, hotel, and other retail services on 40 acres around Johnson Mill Pond.”
MJABC LLC tried to develop a 55 and older community in 2004, but it never made it through the building process, Ziobron said. It was stopped by the inland wetlands commission because the plans required a small pump house treatment center, which stalled the project. According to the CT DPUC archives, the project was later abandoned.
Ziobron said Johnsonville has a huge pond, which is the end of the Moodus River, on the site. The river runs through Johnsonville and empties into the Salmon River, which is bordered by Sunrise State Park as well, she said.
The current real estate listing fails to mention the amount of fixing up Johnsonville will require. The property has been left in disrepair for many years, and was even featured on National Geographic’s series “Abandoned” in September 2012. During the filming of the
“Abandoned” episode, several historic items were recovered from Johnsonville, and are available for purchase online at restoredrelics.com. These items include coat hooks and a toilet paper holder, as well as a mid-1800s, 24-inch cast iron bell that came from the schoolhouse on the property.
Most recently, the property was used as a location for filming scenes for the movie “Something Whispered” with Cuba Gooding, Jr., which was about the Underground Railroad. The property has also gained a reputation as a ghost town online, and appears on various websites such as strangeusa.com. It should be noted, however, that there are "no trespassing" signs throughout the property.