A Ghost Town, A Ghost, A Song of the Year, and A Documentary
Please note: I stumbled upon this village while driving by and seeing the interesting dual -tunnel covered bridge and made a turn out of curiosity. I saw some workers who were part of the organization which since purchased the area who gave me permission to walk the grounds but not enter any buildings. Should you decide to visit the ghost town please do be respectful of the new owners and recognize the town is in current disrepair necessitating some caution. Please stay on the main roads should you have interest in a visit.
A Ghost Town
This once thriving mill town was the center of twine production in Connecticut used primarily for fishnets, and was sold on both coasts and the Great Lakes.
In 1832, the Neptune Mill was constructed and over the years expanded until it reached three stories tall, architecturally resembling a church with its steeple and bell that would call workers into the factory each morning.
In 1862, Emory Johnson built the Triton Mill and tenements and worker housing soon cropped up and Johnsonville was born. The Triton Mill was destroyed in a fire.
A Ghost or Two
The Emory Johnson homestead still stands and they say is haunted by Johnson himself. Fun fact I learned while watching the documentary when they showed the bathroom is that while it looks like an outhouse (prior to plumbing) it has two holes instead of one. This was to accommodate different size needs of the household.
In 1965, Raymond Schmitt, purchased the area to make it a tourist attraction and was seeking to recreate an 18th century Victorian Village. He even brought in other vintage buildings from Connecticut and had them moved to Johnsonville including a stable, chapel, general store and a school house.
Also written is that the the ghost of Schmitt roams the grounds. Perhaps Johnson and Schmitt both were so fond of the place they hang around together.
In 1993, Billy Joel filmed part of his music video, “River of Dreams” at the village and various Connecticut locations along the Connecticut River. An article about the album describes Billy Joel “raises the stakes with River of Dreams, diving further into the philosophical abyss of middle age with the fury of a dreamer searching for an answer before time fades away.” This album hit #1 on the Billboard 200 chart including Song of the Year. Interestingly, the beautiful album cover was painted by Christie Brinkley.
The village was featured in Season 1, episode 10, Connecticut Ghost Town, of the National Geographic TV series “Abandoned” which I was able to view on Amazon prime. It spoke and focused on some of the items I took photos of and included here. The series are guys who purchase antiques and fix them up to resell. It was from this episode I was able to view the inside of some of the buildings. This team wound up purchasing the vintage schoolhouse itself with its antique bell and antique desks with carvings from the 1800s!
On July 7, 2017, a Philippine-based independent Christian organization bought the village and appears to be restoring it for use based on my visit.
Couple this as I did with a visit to Devil’s Hopyard for an awesome creepy day!
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2 thoughts on “CT: Middlesex County-East Haddam-Johnsonville Village”
I used to live in East Haddam, and in 1994/5 actually wrote articles for a small paper called The Observer, which was based in Johnsonville. I believe the paper was started by the owner of Johnsonville, who was not happy about local politics so started his own vehicle of dissent, so to speak – kind of old school but it was before the internet and social media. The offices were in the main building above the dam and I used to go there regularly. Beautiful buildings and I always was amazed that all that was just sitting there and not being used in any way. Hopefully it gets restored before it all rots away.
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Oh how cool! Thanks so much for sharing this additional information! Would love to read your articles. Are they kept anywhere for the public to read?