“I fell in love with it so much that I ended up starting up my own business. My brother and I got together and created a restoration company,” Thomas Kronenberger with Kronenberger and Sons Restoration said.
They spent more than two decades alongside their father painstakingly restoring these now decaying relics and recreating a 19th century village in 20th century Connecticut for all to enjoy.
Thomas Kronenberger said he saw the village in the Moodus section of East Haddam when it was vibrant
“Saw it going up. Saw it when it was put together stick by stick,” Thomas Kronenberger said.
But added it's sad now looking at the town.
“It's like part of your soul. When it's gone its gone,” Thomas Kronenberger said.
The town was the brainchild of Ray Schmitt, who is a businessman who bought hundreds of acres around an old Twine Mill.
Schmitt shipped Victorian structures from all over the northeast to Johnsonville. The village features An old barn, a general store, the home he lived in and even an old chapel.
The chapel was used in a Billy Joel music video.
Tom Kronenberger senior led the project.
“I was one of the few, believe it or not, that could talk back to him,” Tom Kronenberger said.
Tom Kronenberger said Schmitt had some “screwy” ideas.
Some say he never left and some even think that the place is haunted.
“If it is, then Ray would probably be the guy who was haunting it because this was certainly his love and he put a lot of time and effort into it,” Tom Kronenberger said.
Ray Bendici writes on all things nutty in the nutmeg state from the strange to the paranormal.
"People love this stuff,” Bendici said. “So there's no doubt that if you have a haunted village. People are going to come check it out."
That's exactly what happened when Johnsonville's current owners, which are a hospitality group, put it up for auction this month.
Despite the chipped paint, rusting metal, and sagging roofs, bids came pouring in from all over the world. The auction ended on Thursday with the winning bid of $1.9 million, CBS News reports
Realtor Jim Kelly, who is the senior vice president for RM Bradley, said people saw the forest through the trees.
“So if you're...th-th-the winning bidder at auction you could be the owner of this 62 acres of bliss in New England but the mayor of your own town,” Kelly said.
If all goes well, the final sale will be a done deal in 30 days.
Kronenbergers said they are hoping to get a second chance to restore Johnsonville to its old glory.