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Please select an itemTOWN

According to Avon’s history, this vibrant little town at the heart of the Farmington Valley is no stranger to change. After all, it’s been home to dinosaurs, the volcanic activity responsible for Talcott Mountain’s steep cliffs, a flow of glaciers that etched rocks with evidence of their passage while leaving a trail of boulders from Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts in their wake — and mastodons. Yes. Mastodons. Fact is, it wasn’t until 10,000 years ago that the area was finally settled by the River Indians, the mid-1600s before the confederation of local tribes sold their land to the English, 1645 when neighboring Farmington was founded, and 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. And as those numbers have swelled, so, too, have the number of retail and dining establishments, including those located at the very popular Shoppes at Farmington Valley, as well as those lining Route 44, Avon’s main thoroughfare. Indeed, the point at which Route 44 intersects with Routes 10 & 202 at the foot of Avon Mountain is the official gateway to the Town, graced by 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 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 the intersection of Routes 44 and 10 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 Arts Magnet School.

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, you can launch yours nearby — the serene, six-mile stretch of family-friendly Farmington River flat water heading toward Simsbury providing 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 Marketplace, where a cluster of specialty shops and eateries are housed in freestanding Colonial-era buildings.

Turn south, and you’ll find yourself on Old Farms Road, with Avon Old Farms School, featuring distinctive English-style buildings designed by Theodate Pope Riddle, who also designed her impressive family home in Farmington (now the Hill-Stead Museum) just ahead. Turn North, and you’ll be on Simsbury Road, where you’ll see 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 — 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 Clock & Lighting and its treasure 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, Shear Artistry, is one of the Valley’s premier salons and day spas.

Go straight at the junction of Routes 44, 202, and 10 and you’ll pass the legacy of historic brownstone buildings left by early industrial-era explosives companies Climax Fuse and Ensign Bickford, now recycled for an assortment of uses, including municipal government offices and the quaint Shops at Avon Green. 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 which 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, a new European-style coffee shop right across the street. Dom’s Cheese Shop, a purveyor of the finest cheeses and sliced meats, opened recently at the same location.

And further ahead you’ll find Walmart, The Fresh Market (an independent providing lots of specialty items) Michaels and Marshalls, and 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, Stonewell Restaurant, The New England Pasta Company, Angelino’s Family Restaurant, Cosi, Amici Italian Grill, and Chang-An II Chinese Restaurant.

New in 2014, and a asset to the area, is Hartford Hospital’s new walk-in primary and urgent-care center, 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 and a second expansion 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 — and 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 continue to keep a watchful eye on things, but apprehensions about over-development have eased as capacity has caught up with growth, and Avon has settled nicely into yet another very positive phase in its long history of change.

Photo by Lanny Nagler