Historic Johnsonville Ghost Town in Connecticut Sells in Online Auction for $1.9 Million, but No Plans for It Yet

Real estate agent for sale sign

Those who are interested in buying their own ghost town have one name to cross off their lists: the Johnsonville village in East Haddam, CT, has sold in an online auction for $1.9 million.

The identity of the buyer has not been revealed, and neither have any plans for the 62-acre property. All that’s known is that the town was sold on Auction.com by MJABC LLC.

The principals in MJABC are William A. Meyer and Richard Jabara, owners of Meyer Jabara Hotels, according to Connecticut state records. The company operates 20 hotels in 10 states.

Yet the high bid was below the $2.5 million that Meyer and Jabara hoped for. That was what they paid for it in 2001.

Through the years, the two explored several options for Johnsonville, including turning it into a 55-and-older community or a destination spa and retreat.

The online auction ran for two days from Oct. 28 to Oct. 30, with a starting bid of $800,000.

As for how the village will be used, many are hopeful that it will return to the tourist attraction it once was.

Mark Walter, First Selectman of East Haddam, wants to see the village, including its restaurant and chapel, restored and reopened for business.

“One of the greatest advantages of taking distressed property to auction is that it creates a ‘sense of urgency’ in the market,” says Faith Cockrum of BCL Auction. “This motivates interested parties to act aggressively in their decision making, as well as getting their finances in order. Auctions produces a substantially quicker closing for the Seller than a traditional real estate sale. Sellers can also protect their investments by setting a ‘Reserve Price,’ allowing them the opportunity to ‘accept or reject’ the highest bid offered.”

During the 1870s, Johnsonville was a thriving mill town where twine for fishing nets was produced. Then in the 1960s, Raymond Schmitt, an aerospace millionaire, purchased most of the property in the town, including the Neptune Twine and Cord Mill Factory, the last of its kind.

Schmitt then traveled through New England to bring Victorian-era homes to the town along with a schoolhouse, a chapel, a general store, a livery stable and a steamboat.

Schmitt turned Johnsonville into a tourist attraction and popular wedding spot, which it remained until 1994 after Schmitt got into a dispute with town officials. Since then, the village has been abandoned.

In 1998, after Schmitt’s death, the property went up for auction. The artifacts and antiques inside the building sold, but the village did not meet the $3 million goal that Schmitt’s estate hoped to hit.

The property now includes eight historic buildings, the Johnson Mill Pond with a covered bridge, a wooden dam and a waterfall.

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