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Welcome to The Avon Historical Society, Inc.



Avon Historical Society's mission is to identify, collect, preserve, utilize,

publish, display, and promote the history and heritage of Avon.

Welcome to Summer 2014

State Register of Historic Places Designation Granted to Derrin House

and Horse Guards Barn in Avon


            June 2014 - The Avon Historical Society is pleased to announce that it has received the State Register of Historic Places designation from the Offices of Culture and Tourism, Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, for the c. 1810 Derrin House and the c. 1880 First Company Governor’s Horse Guards Barn both located on West Avon Road, Avon, CT.  The State Register of Historic Places is Connecticut's official listing of structures and sites that characterize the historical development of the state. It was created and authorized in 1975 under Connecticut General Statute which defined the State Register as an “itemized list locating and classifying historic structures and landmarks throughout the state.”  Since 1975, over 75,000 properties owned by private citizens, organizations, municipalities and the State of Connecticut have been listed on the State Register.

            The application for the designation of both properties was initiated by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation providing much of the narrative for the application with the help of Peter Wright and Len Tolisano, members of the Avon Historical Society Board of Trustees.  In the application for the Derrin House, it is described as “a 1 ˝-story center-chimney post and beam framed structure sited with its ridge-line oriented east-west perpendicular to the road.”  The Barn is described as a

“1 ˝-story three-bay, gable-roofed New England bank barn located approximately 300 feet north of the house and on the opposite side of the road…bordered on all sides by wooden fences painted white and much of the site is open pasture.”

            The Derrin House, c. 1810, has been under extensive restoration by volunteers since 1996 when the Society leased the structure from the Department of the Military, State of Connecticut, which owned it since 1954 and used it for the First Co. Governor’s Horse Guard by a caretaker and later for storage.   The land that it sits on was the property of the Derrin family for over 150 years (1766-1920) tracing its roots to the late 18th century. Open on Sundays from 2:00 – 4:00pm from June through September, one can see the progress the family made as the house was expanded again and again. Currently under an adaptive-reuse, the Derrin House is testimony to a way of life that has virtually disappeared from our region; the family farm. Filled with period furniture and implements, the Derrin House invites visitors to learn what life was like on a 19th century New England farm, where the weather and uneven soil always made life interesting. Many aspects of that life are on display within the house. Included is a kitchen garden in the side and a newly created narrative about the Ammi and Sarah Derrin family who raised many children in this house in the mid 19th century.

            The Horse Guards Barn came to the attention of the Avon Historical Society early in 2010 when the group was approached by the Department of the Military to consider extending the lease of the Derrin House in order to restore the c. 1880 New England Gable Entry Bank Barn built according to the “square” rule using circular sawn lumber.  In the late 19th century a private family occupied the land and barn. Later owners sold the whole property to the State of Connecticut in 1954 for use by the First Co. Governor’s Horse Guard. This particular barn was used for their horses until the State built a modern facility several years ago.  A lower level barn attached to the back was added in the 1954. 

In January 2011 the Society signed an amendment to a lease agreement of the Derrin House (249 West Avon Road) from the State of Connecticut Department of the Military to include the Horse Guard Barn (232 West Avon Road), located on the property of the First Co. Governor’s Horse Guard.  Since taking on the Barn, countless hours of volunteer labor and financial support has come from the community.  Financial donations have been received in the past for materials and some of the labor to date to create a temporary wall to strengthen the south side.  The most pressing need is to replace the roof.  To date the Society has raised just over $11,000 toward the expected $25,000 cost. The Society welcomes individual or business contributions to either the Derrin House or Horse Guard Barn. Your contribution is tax deductible and a letter of thanks will be sent to all donors. Donations may be made to: Avon Historical Society, P.O. Box 448, Avon, CT 06001. 

Former Towpath School Cupola Saved to be Installed Near Former Site


Volunteers from Society, Board of Ed and Boy Scouts paint the Cupola in June

            July 2014 - The Avon Historical Society and the Avon Board of Education are working together this summer to renovate the twenty-foot high cupola that was once atop the former Towpath School and replacing near its former home.  A group of members from both organizations, including Boy Scouts from Troop 274, painted it in order for it to be put in place on the lawn in front of the Avon Board of Education office, 34 Simsbury Road, Avon.

 When the ground was broken for the “new” Towpath Elementary School on Simsbury Road in March 1948, a wooden eight-sided cupola was built and placed on top later that year as the new school was constructed.  Total school construction cost $300,000.  It was opened in the Fall of 1948 and remained an elementary school until closing June 1991.  Afterwards, the former school housed the Farmington Valley Health District and studios for the Farmington Valley Arts Center.  In addition, the Town of Avon used it for storage of voting machines, boxed files and flags for the Boy Scouts of Avon.  In 2006, the Town demolished the school, but before doing so, agreed to save two items from the top of the building – the cupola and weathervane – for the Avon Historical Society.  The metal weathervane, estimated to be made in the late 1960’s, is a cutout of a canal boat pulled by a horse, similar to the boats that traveled the Farmington Canal on the same property from 1828-1849. The Society’s logo is the same design. The weathervane is housed in the Avon Historical Society’s Schoolhouse No. 3 on East Main Street with a display about the Farmington Canal.

One year ago, Gary Mala, Superintendent of Avon Schools, heard about the cupola in storage and decided to bring it back to life and have it placed permanently on the front lawn of the Board of Education building as a reminder of the former Towpath School that stood next door.  The current Board of Education office is located in an expanded structure that once housed the original Towpath School, built in 1879 named District No. 5, as a one-room school house for 13 children.  By 1909 it had 63 students, expanded to 6 rooms in 1920 and was officially named “Towpath School” in 1927.  By 1948 it was clear that a more modern school needed to be built and a committee, chaired by Fred Turner, was created.  A cornerstone was placed on the building’s southwest side with a sealed box of papers about the Town and building of the school. That cornerstone and its contents were missing by the time of the building’s demolition in 2006.

Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Mala, volunteers from the Board of Education and the Avon Historical Society, the 20’ high, 15’ wide, 8-sided cupola will become a unique site to visit with landscaping, a bench and informational kiosk built nearby for all to enjoy.


New informational kiosks by Eagle Scouts included.

            The Avon Historical Society welcomes you to the School House, 3 Harris Street (West Avon Road/Route 167) and the Derrin House, 249 West Avon Road, for the summer tourist season on Sunday, June 1st and every Sunday through September from 2:00 – 4:00pm.

 The Pine Grove Schoolhouse was built in 1865 as Schoolhouse No.7 and still remains in its original location.  It is owned by the Town of Avon.  It was in use until 1949 when it became a branch of the town library, nursery school and meeting place for the Boy Scouts.  The Avon Historical Society restored the building in 1976 and is interpreted as a schoolhouse of 1900 with bolted desks, hand slates, textbooks, scrolling blackboard and other educational memorabilia of the time.  During the summer of 2012, the almost 100-year old outhouse was restored and placed near its original location. New to the property this year is an informational two-sided kiosk that was built and installed by Ryan Tyler as an Eagle Scout project containing history and photos of the School as well as the West Avon area.  Early in 2014, a Repair and Maintenance Grant was received by the Town of Avon and the Avon Historical Society by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation to restore the 112 panes of glass in the windows of the schoolhouse, as most of them are original and have deteriorated over time. The windows are being restored over the summer and will be replaced in the middle of August.  The Schoolhouse WILL REMAIN OPEN to visitors during the restoration. Greeters are available on Sundays from 2-4pm.

The Derrin House (c. 1810) has the first floor open to the public while restoration continues in other parts of the building. It was leased in 1996 by the State of Connecticut, Department of the Military to the Avon Historical Society for adaptive reuse. The land that the current Derrin House sits on was the property of one family for over 150 years (1766-1920); this structure traces its roots to the late 18th century. One can see the progress the family made as the house was expanded again and again. The Derrin House is testimony to a way of life that has virtually disappeared from our region; the family farm. Filled with period furniture and implements the Derrin House invites visitors to learn what life was like on a 19thcentury New England farm, where the weather and uneven soil always made life interesting.  Many aspects of that life are on display within the house; including several interactive pieces. Included on the property is a newly installed informational mounted sign, created as an Eagle Scout project by Justin Alessio, about the Horse Guard State Park Scenic Reserve that surrounds the Derrin House. Alessio also restored the main trail and constructed a hitching post near the trail head.  The public is encouraged to hike the trail to the top and enjoy the views of the Valley.

Cookie Recipes from Civil War Commemoration Events  

Need a clever gift idea?  Someone moving away?  

Unique gifts available!  

Need a quick gift that is special and of interest to your local history buff? How about a book or set of notecards from the Avon Historical Society Gift Shop?  We are pleased to have several books on Avon history available including photo books of views of Avon yesterday and today. NEW this year!!  Full color notecards of historic scenes around Avon painted by students at Avon High School.  These heavy stock cards are 5" x 7" in size and depict scenes of Pine Grove School House, The Flower House on West Avon Road, Countryside Park and the Forge at Avon Old Farms School.  A set of 8 cards are $8 or 2 sets for $15.  Sets come in individual pictures on each or cards with all four pictures on the front.  The student artists, whose name are on the back of the cards, gave permission for their images to be reproduced.  Printing was donated.  Therefore 100% of the proceeds will benefit the projects and programs of the Avon Historical Society.  To order, please contact the Society at the number below for price and shipping, if necessary.  To view all our items, visit the AHS Gift Shop page


About Us

                                                  Avon Historical Society P.O. Box 448, Avon, CT 06001

Founded in 1974, the Avon Historical Society is an all volunteer, nonprofit organization devoted to the conservation of Avon's historical and cultural past and its educational relevance to our life. Membership in The Avon Historical Society is open to the public.

Currently the Society's projects include full restoration of the Derrin House on West Avon Road, proper storage of many artifacts in the Schoolhouse No. 3 (formerly The Living Museum) and Pine Grove Schoolhouse, answering local history questions, giving referrals to those who seek "experts" to help with their historic home or genealogy questions, publishing a newsletter and planning fundraising events.

The Society belongs to the Farmington Valley Visitors Association, Connecticut League of History Organizations, and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.

In 1972, the National Register of Historic Places designated a section of West Avon as the Pine Grove Historic District. The District includes the Pine Grove Schoolhouse and five homes built prior to 1865. 

An historic building survey was completed in June 1997 of the town of Avon by the State Historic Preservation Commissiom. Many sites have been identified as potential historic districts. The complete survey can be viewed at Town Hall, and the Avon Library.


For information on joining or volunteering, please feel free to call Avon Historical Society directly at 860-678-7621.


© Avon Historical Society P.O. Box 448, Avon, CT. 06001 All Rights Reserved