Philippine-founded church group, Iglesia Ni Cristo, has purchased a ghost town in Connecticut for $1.85 million.
The 62-acre hamlet of Johnsonville — a former mill town turned into a Victorian-themed tourist attraction by an eccentric millionaire — had been abandoned for years.
Speaking to local newspaper The Hartford Courant, church minister Joji Crisostomo said: “We would like to see it brought back to life.
“We don’t like the term ghost town. I don’t think anybody likes that.”
The church, which is based in Quezon City and has branches throughout the world, hasn’t finalised its plans for the property but is looking to preserve the historic buildings and bring the chapel back into use, Mr Crisostomo said.
Iglesia Ni Cristo was founded in 1914 and describes itself as “the fulfillment of biblical prophesies on the true Church of Christ in these last days for man’s salvation”.
Church members first visited Johnsonville ilast month, and the cash sale went through within days, surprising locals who had seen the property languish on the market for years.
“This happened awfully quick,” Emmett J Lyman, the first selectmen of East Haddam, told the Courant.
“My thought was, it’s going to take a week or two; they’re going to look at stuff and evaluate what they’ve got. Not so.”
The property includes an old post office, a schoolhouse, a general store, the original homestead of the mill owners and an abandoned church.
Johnsonville was part of a thriving mill community in the 1800s.
In 1972, millionaire industrialist Raymond Schmitt, owner of aerospace company AGC Inc, bought the property after a lightning strike destroyed the mill.
He then set about creating a Victorian-era tourist attraction, buying up historic buildings across the northwest USA and shipping them to the town.
In addition to the buildings, he also bought a paddleboat from the World’s Fair in the 1960s.
He later transported it to Johnsonville, where he planned to use it to ferry passengers around the town’s lake.
Despite his best efforts, the town never really took off as a tourist attraction, and after a dispute with local officials he closed the town in 1994 and put it up for sale.
He died four years later, and the property fell into disrepair — even the paddleboat began sinking into the lake.
Connecticut-based hotel company Meyer Jabara Hotels sold the town to the church on Friday. It paid $2.5 million dollars for the property in 2001.
In October 2015, Johnsonville was put up for auction, with the hammer coming down at $1.9million. However this sale fell through.
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