In addition to collecting clothes, beds, boats, toys and carriages of the Victorian era, Raymond and Carole Schmitt also collected historic structures.
The schoolhouse was was built in 1863, in Canterbury, CT; where thirty prior a progressive educator named Prudence Crandall was shunned and denounced for opening a school for African American Girls. Much had changed by 1863, when Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slave in the midst of the bloody American Civil War.
Today Prudence Crandall is the State Heroine, an affirmation of the boldness and nobility of her convictions and ideas. East Haddam, of which Moodus is a section also is home to one of the Nathan Hale schoolhouses. Hale, the State Hero, was also a forward-thinking teacher before his famous spy mission.
Carole Schmitt allegedly found the one-room schoolhouse abandoned and overcome by overgrowth. The Schmitts wanted to save structures like this one from oblivion, and found a home for them on the blank canvas of the existing mill village near their Moodus home.
They built their collection into a symbolic community, preserving 19th century architecture while creating Historic Johnsonville Village, an utopian setting that did not exist in the 1870s.