The Derrin House is a vernacular farmhouse at 249 West Avon Road in Avon. Its oldest sections may date to c. 1747 (could that be 1767?) and it was added to at least four times over the years. The most recent section of the house is closest to the road and the sign for the house reads c. 1810. It was built by the Derrin (or Derring) family. Little is known about the family other than that they built several houses along the same road in the western part of Avon in the eighteenth century on land they acquired in 1766. The house is located in Horse Guard State Park and is owned by the State of Connecticut Military Department for the First Company Governor’s Horse Guard, which is based across the street. The house is currently being restored by the Avon Historical Society.
Among the buildings designed by Theodate Pope Riddle for Avon Old Farms school was an Estate Manager’s House. Located near the Water Tower, Forge and Chapel, the cottage was built c. 1922-1923. With its half-timbering and brick nogging, it resembles the traditional English houses of Sussex and Surrey. It is now known as the Gate House. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the first buildings to be constructed at Avon Old Farms School in Avon was a carpentry shop (other early buildings were the Water Tower and Forge). The carpentry shop was later turned into the school’s Chapel in 1948 and named the Chapel of Jesus the Carpenter. The school buildings were designed by Theodate Pope Riddle, who utilized craftsman from the Cotswolds in England to construct buildings in a traditional English country manner. The carpentry shop is a half-timbered structure of brick nogging resembling similar buildings found in English villages that Theodate Pope Riddle had visited. Originally, students sat in the chapel on seats that faced each other along its length. The Chapel underwent a major renovation in 1999: the roof was restored and a new organ was installed inside. Next to the Chapel is a wooden cross, made in the early 1950s with hand tools using timber grown in the school’s woodland’s. It was placed in its current location when the Chapel was renovated in 2000. A tablet notes that it is dedicated to the memory of Donald W. Pierpont, Provost (Headmaster) from 1947 to 1968.
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Rev. Rufus Hawley (1741-1826) was born in East Granby, graduated from Yale in 1767 and was ordained pastor of the Northiugton (now Avon) Congregational Church on Dec. 20, 1769. He continued as minister until his resignation in 1817. In December of that year, the old Northington meeting house burned down. Believed to have been a case of arson (suspicion even fell on the minister himself), the fire came at the time of an intense dispute within the church concerning where in town a new meeting house should be built. Eventually the congregation split, with the majority deciding to construct what is now the West Avon Congregational Church, located in the center of town, while the rest built the Avon Congregational Church, located in the commercial center of Avon. Rev. Hawley continued as a pastor at the West Avon Church until his death in 1826.
Rufus Hawley kept detailed journals in which he recorded his daily activities between 1763 and 1812. In a recent book about Hawley, Catch’d on Fire: The Journals of Rufus Hawley of Avon, Connecticut, author Nora Oakes Howard makes extensive use of these journals. Hawley built the fourth house he owned in Avon in 1798-1799. Located at 281 Old Farms Road, it was notable for having two side-by-side kitchens in the rear. Known as Avonside, it remained in the family for many years after the minister’s death. It passed to his son, Rufus Forward Hawley, who sold it to his nephew, Edward Eugene Hawley in 1837. After his death in 1868, it passed to Edward’s daughters, Florence Genevieve Hawley, who used it as a summer home, and then to Bertha H. Hawley. It was then inherited by their nephew, Reginald Birney of West Hartford, who died in 1936. Damaged by fire in 1950, the house was sold by Birney’s widow in 1951 to Robert and Gladys August, who also became the guardians of the Hawley family papers, including the journals. They owned the house until 1998. In 2002, the Hawley family archives were donated to the Avon Free Public Library.
Avon Old Farms School, which opened in 1927, is a boarding school for boys founded by Theodate Pope Riddle, Connecticut’s first licensed female architect. She lived at Hill-Stead in Farmington, which she had helped design. Planning for the school’s campus began in 1918 and the land was cleared in 1921. The buildings were modeled after English Cotswold and Tudor styles and utilized traditional English methods. Among the earliest structures to be built were the Water Tower and the Forge, located at the entrance to the campus, whose foundations were laid in 1922. The cylindrical Water Tower is constructed of red sandstone at the base, which melds into similarly-colored brick. Connected to it is the Forge, which has two large chimneys. Constructed of sandstone blocks and brick, it was built as a working forge and provided the metal hardware (hinges, door latches, stair rails, and lanterns) used throughout the campus. The Water Tower contained water until 1976, when cisterns were placed underground. It is now the Ordway Gallery. The Forge was later converted to classroom and meeting space and its exterior has recently been restored.
The Congregational Church in Avon began in 1751 as the Church of Christ in Northington (as Avon was then called). A split in the church occurred in 1817, after the old Northington meeting house was destroyed in a fire. The majority of the congregation decided to build a new church in the geographic center of town. Completed in 1818, the church is still in use today as the West Avon Congregational Church. In 1819, the remainder of the congregation built what is now the Avon Congregational Church to the east, in the community’s commercial center. Avon was incorporated as a town in 1830 and, until a town hall was built in 1891, town meetings were held alternately in the two churches. In 1969, the West Avon Congregational Church was moved from Burnham Road to its current location on Country Club Road.
Built around 1830 and thought to have served as offices and perhaps a warehouse for the Farmington Canal, the nineteenth-century commercial building at 12 West Main Street in Avon, adjacent to the Congregational Church, has since been a feed store, school, residence and, from 1947 to 1967, a post office. This former Farmington Canal Administration building continues today to house various businesses and living space.