Historic intersection centers Avon
If It Takes a Village, Avon’s History is Alive and Well
This article first appeared in the July edition of Today Magazine, our monthly publication
By Bruce Deckert — Today Magazine Editor-in-Chief
The first phase of the Avon Village Center project officially debuted in September 2021 — construction began in 2015 — with the grand opening of anchor store Whole Foods Market.
For the uninitiated, the project is a new commercial-and-residential complex located a stone’s throw from Route 44 (aka West Main Street) and another stone’s throw from Avon’s historic town center. Including center in the project’s name — Avon Village Center — has sparked an ongoing issue connected to Avon’s history. This issue can be described in a variety of ways, via a number of synonymous nouns.
Three such nouns have an essentially friendly connotation: dialogue, discourse, discussion. Three further nouns have a more contentious connotation: dispute, disagreement, debate. The term question also applies — and is likewise listed in the Google dictionary as a related synonym.
Whether you prefer calling this history topic a question or an issue or one of the above D-words, at this juncture you may be wondering: What exactly is the subject matter we’re talking about?
The answer is simple — the whereabouts of Avon’s town center. More fully and specifically, the actual location and accurate identification of Avon’s town center.
The reality is this: Avon Village Center is simply an extension of Avon’s historic town center that dates back two centuries. The new complex is the proverbial hop-skip-and-jump from this historic town center, anchored by Avon Congregational Church.
Yet if this isn’t the reality to all observers, it is surely a plausible and persuasive view of the reality of the true history of Avon’s town center. Some would say it’s certainly the most accurate of all the possible town-center perspectives and interpretations and definitions — and Today Magazine concurs.
As is the case with many storylines, a conundrum — indeed, an absurdity — is part of this central calculation. Paradoxically, Whole Foods Market and Avon Village Center are on different town roadways. Whole Foods, the mainstay tenant of the new shopping development, is located at 50 Climax Road. The new center’s address is 21 Ensign Drive.
For the record, the coverage area of Today Magazine is comprised of the five core towns in the Farmington Valley: Avon, Canton, Farmington, Granby and Simsbury. Farmington (founded 1645) is the oldest and Avon (1830) is the youngest. Simsbury (1670) is the next-oldest, followed by the two Simsbury spinoffs. Yes, Granby (1786) and Canton (1806) were originally encompassed within Simsbury’s boundaries.
Meanwhile, Avon was previously part of Farmington. The younger municipality had been established in 1750 as a separate Farmington parish, eight decades before Avon’s official formation as a town, according to Avon town historian Nora Howard’s research.
Construction of the Avon Congregational Church was finished in 1819 — in the 200 years since then, Avon’s town center has historically been at the intersection of Routes 10 and 44 and Old Farms Road, where the church building still reaches skyward today.
More specifically, this is the first major intersection after Route 10/202 runs south from Simsbury into Avon and crosses Route 44.
Here’s a concise verbal travelogue of this centuries-old convergence of Avon thoroughfares:
• Continuing straight at the intersection, Route 10/202 becomes Old Farms Road.
• A right-hand turn at this crossroads, with the celebrated Avon Congregational Church on the right, takes you west on Route 44/202 aka West Main Street.
• A left-hand turn takes you east on Route 44/10 (aka East Main Street) until a right-hand turn a mile down the road becomes Route 10 south — Route 44 east continues straight over Avon Mountain.
By the way, two fabled Valley cornerstones — the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail and Nod Brook — traverse Avon’s historic town center and the Avon Village Center project.
Thanks for traveling with Today Magazine — stay safe and happy trails. +
Today editor-in-chief Bruce Deckert is an award-winning journalist
Related Cover Story — Center Stage: Resolving town center controversy