Sunday, September 10, 2017

Filipino religious group buys Connecticut ghost town

Google Earth presents an aerial view of Johnsonville Village, Connecticut.

Historic Johnsonville Village in Connecticut has been a ghost town for decades until Philippine mega church Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) bought the 62-acre property for $1.8 million last July.

And for the first time since the purchase last July 26, the new owners opened the Victorian era mill town to the public in a neighborhood appreciation day.

At least 1,500 INC members from Connecticut and nearby states came out to enjoy free food, refreshments, and entertainment, to admire the fresh cut lawns bordering the picuresque pond and to meet former town residents.

"Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, INC Executive Minister, envisions Johnsonville as a future site of INC activities in the Northeastern Seaboard of the United States.," said INC spokesman Edwil Zabala. "The INC, which currently has three congregations in Connecticut, is found in 138 countries and territories around the world," he stated further.

“This looked like the perfect property, like I said, we’re just following the administration, these blessings and ah, right now as we have our neighborhood appreciation day, we invited all of the people in the surrounding community,” said Jason Dulalas, INC's Minister of the Gospel.

In Johnsonville Village, an old hotel overlooking the mill pond may one day host visitors again.

“Restoration will be a priority,” said INC Brother Joji Crisostomo. "Ultimately, the plan is to use the property for church activities and also open it to others.

“While exact plans for development have not yet been finalized, the INC is hopeful neighbors will appreciate the breath of new life being brought into the town,” he said. “INC respects the rich history that the property will always carry.”

He said the INC will preserve much of Johnsonville’s original architecture, a statement that makes some local official welcome the newcomers.

Among the visitors was Connecticut state representative for East Haddam, State Rep. Melissa Ziobron.

“In America they love to see history preserved and I think that’s really the underlying thing,” said Ziobron. “I think there are certain buildings that are probably more sentimental than others, and that’s how I hope the community will have conversations and be involved and welcomed.”

Johnsotville Village  is the second U.S. town bought by INC. In 2011 the group bought Scenic, South Dakota, a virtual ghost town where the only open business is the U.S. Post Office. 

Thus far, INC representatives have been meeting with the local Native Americans but no physical improvements have been made.

Historically, INC established congregations where there are a number of Filipinos. In South Dakota, there are under 2,000 Filipino Americans, just under .2 percent of the total population.

The church group sent Pastor Jose Ventilacion to offer church services in 2015. He told the Rapid City Journal that the goal of opening in South Dakota was to "build a house of worship and try to establish a strong regional membership."

Besides the post office, the 46-acre town has a gas station, museum and a bar.


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