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Please select an itemTOWN

Avon is a vibrant little town at the heart of the Farmington Valley — and no stranger to change, having been home to dinosaurs, the volcanic activity responsible for Talcott Mountain’s steep cliffs, a glacial migration that etched rocks along their passage, and mastodons. Yes, mastodons. Indeed, the River Indians who finally settled here arrived only 10,000 years ago. It wasn’t until the mid-1600s that the confederation of local tribes sold their land to the English — and 1645 when neighboring Farmington was founded. And it was more than another hundred years before a settler named Stephen Hart purchased and settled the land now known as Avon.

Since then, the town’s resident population has swelled, reflecting and supporting an already substantial and steadily growing base of businesses and industries, whose numbers have swelled, too, thanks to new retail and dining establishments at the very popular Shoppes at Farmington Valley, as well as along Route 44 — Avon’s main thoroughfare.

The official gateway to the town is the point at which Route 44 intersects with Nod and Waterville Roads at the foot of Avon Mountain. On one side is The North House, a fine eatery now at home in what was formerly Avon Old Farms Inn — a circa 1757 establishment that was once a stagecoach stop on Albany Turnpike. And on the other is the Avon Old Farms Hotel, which, with its top-notch accommodations and an upscale restaurant, is, like its namesake, a sophisticated setting for events of all kinds.

Also at that intersection is Apple Health and Physicians for Women’s Health. And Apple’s Foley-family imprint continues across the road with the Blue Fox Run golf course and a tastefully developed office complex that includes Saint Francis Care and other medical facilities.

Just south, occupying the site of the old Avon Cider Mill, is the Reggio Magnet School of the Arts, while right next door is The Pickin’ Patch, where the Woodford family has cultivated the Valley’s most fertile acreage for centuries, producing a bountiful selection of field-fresh fruits, vegetables, and nursery stock. Pick your own corn, tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, and pumpkins — or pick out a shrub, some herbs, annuals, or a Christmas tree.

If canoeing is your thing, launch yours nearby along the serene six-mile stretch of family-friendly Farmington River flat water that heads toward Simsbury and provides a fine paddle with some outstanding scenery.

Up ahead is one of the Valley’s most consistently excellent restaurants — Max A Mia. And a bit further, the junction of Routes 44, 202, and 10 is marked by a big old wooden rocking chair at the entrance of Avon Village, where a cluster of specialty shops and eateries are housed in freestanding Colonial-era buildings.

Turn south on Old Farms Road and you’ll find Avon Old Farms School a few miles down. The campus features distinctive English-style buildings designed by Theodate Pope Riddle, who also designed her impressive family home in Farmington (now the Hill-Stead Museum).

Turn North, and you’ll find yourself on Simsbury Road, where you’ll see a Residence Inn by Marriott and The Residence at Brookside, an assisted living facility, plus Hartford Hospital’s Healthtrax Avon Wellness Center — a combination fitness club and multi-specialty medical services facility — just across the road. And next door is Riverdale Farms, a collection of historic farm buildings polished up to house a new and highly diverse crop of outstanding restaurants and specialty shops, including Avon Lighting Showroom, with its trove of heirloom-quality clocks and distinctive light fixtures, and Avon Plumbing & Heating, with its large showroom, featuring the latest styles and best brands in bath and kitchen fixtures. Its neighbor, The Hair Loft, is one of the Valley’s premier salons.

Go straight at the junction of Routes 44, 202, and 10 and you’ll pass the historic brownstone buildings that are the legacy of the early industrial-era explosives companies Climax Fuse and Ensign Bickford. They are now recycled for an assortment of uses, including municipal government offices and the quaint Shops at Avon Green. But it is also home to the Farmington Valley Arts Center, where you can take all kinds of classes and attend popular community events, such as the holiday Candlelight Opening in November.

Housed in a grand old Colonial next door is The First & Last Tavern, a local favorite that has welcomed travelers — and now diners — for almost two centuries. In another grand old Colonial across the road is The Coffee Trade, where an amazing array of whole-bean coffees are ground daily. And if a “cuppa” is on your mind, but you prefer a more contemporary atmosphere, try Dom’s Coffee, a European-style coffee shop right across the street. Dom’s Cheese Shop, recently named “Best Cheese Shop in Hartford County” by Connecticut magazine, is now open at the same location.

Further ahead you’ll find Walmart, The Fresh Market (an independent providing lots of specialty items), Michaels, and Marshalls, as well as Avon Marketplace, which is home to Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, Ulta, Orvis, Eastern Mountain Sports, The Gap, and Bertucci’s. Across the road is Pier I, a local favorite. And nearby, tucked in and around the larger stores, are more great shops and plenty of eateries, such as BurgerFi, Liki Sushi & Asian Bistro, The New England Pasta Company, Avon Prime Meats, Marketplace Kitchen & Bar, Cosi, Amici Italian Grill, and Chang-An II Chinese Restaurant..

New in 2014, and a asset to the area, is GoHealth Hartford Hospital’s new walk-in primary and urgent-care center, located on the south side of Route 44.

Most of Avon’s new residents have moved into the comfortable wooded neighborhoods that fan out south of Route 44 in the Farmington River Valley lowlands between Avon Mountain Ridge on the town’s eastern border and the West Avon Mountain highlands along the Canton line.

Along the southern boundary sits a 223-acre soccer and baseball mecca called Fisher Meadows. The town’s major outdoor recreation area, it also offers lots of wooded trails and beautiful Spring Lake.

On West Avon Road (Route 167), you’ll see the First Company Governor’s Horse Guard, where Thursday night drills with the horses are a popular roadside attraction. And close by is Avon High School, which opened in 1958 with only 500 students, completed a major expansion in 1999, a second in 2008, and now serves more than 1,100 students. Miller Turkey Farm is just down the road, and nearby on Route 167 stands the J.C. Thompson Sunrise Farm, which broke ground in 1876 and is still in operation today — a delightful vestige of Avon’s agricultural legacy.

And traveling west, up Country Club Road and across Lovely Street, is the west Avon Mountain area, where many of the Valley’s most magnificent new homes have been built and upscale sub-divisions proposed.

Mindful of increasing school budgets and concerned about how much more commercial development Rte. 44 can handle, residents have remained vigilant, keeping a watchful eye on things — but apprehensions about over-development have eased as capacity has caught up with growth. Seems Avon has settled nicely into yet another very positive phase in its long history of change.

Photo by Lanny Nagler