Looking Back: Town of Avon
Avon Celebrates 25th Anniversary
Much has changed since 1818 when settlers first came to Hendricks County. Even the name of the town here in Avon has evolved – originally it was called Hampton, then White Lick, then Smootsdell, then New Philadelphia, and finally Avon. According to Susie Truax, a local historian for the Avon-Washington Township Public Library, the railroad gave the area the Avon name, but no one knows exactly why.
“Avon was actually called Avon for a long time before it became a town, but it was officially Washington Township,” Truax says. “In the ‘Republican,’ there was a special section for Avon labeled as Avon as early as the late 1800s.”
Avon didn’t officially become a town until 1995. Today the local community is celebrating 25 years as a town.
Avon-Washington Township Public Library records state that in 1824, the population of Hendricks County was just 1,000. By 2019, that number had grown to 170,311.
Bill Bailey, a longtime Avon business owner, was one of the first Town Council members. According to Bailey, the process of getting Avon incorporated started back in the 1970s.
“There was a movement afoot that my father was involved in,” Bailey says. “They could never really get things moving though.”
In 1993 locals were trying to launch a movement to get Avon incorporated and take in the entire township. It didn’t fly, however, as there was too much tax revenue involved. Ultimately that movement died, but Bailey was approached and asked to take on the project. As a lifelong Hendricks County resident, he agreed.
“It wasn’t an easy task, as you can well imagine,” Bailey says. “I had to take a crash course in civics to be able to address multiple aspects to get an area incorporated.”
Over time and with quite a bit of help from the existing Washington Township Trustee Greg Hurst, they were able to complete the task. Town Council members were elected at a convention in 1995. Bailey was named the first president, a title he held for more than three years.
“During that three and a half years, we accomplished more than had ever been imagined with the setting up of the Avon police departments, the planning and zoning, the board of zoning appeals – all these various departments that were so important for a new fledging town,” Bailey says, adding that the project was crucial to implement much-needed local governmental controls.
“Back in 1995, someone could build a million-dollar house and if someone else wanted to, they could park a trailer on the lot next door,” says Bailey, noting that an individual’s home is likely the single largest investment they will make. “Without having any governmental controls that come with an incorporated community, that single largest investment was in jeopardy. It was incumbent upon us to get this town formed to help protect those investments for the individuals who lived in what would be the town of Avon.”
Bailey says this undertaking protected those investments and gave locals a sense of security.
“We were safeguarding people’s investments, and safeguarding people’s lives with law enforcement that was instituted,” he says.
Though Bailey found the work rewarding, it was also extremely time consuming. He estimates that he was spending roughly 30% of his workday doing town business, so in 1998 he chose to move on. He now focuses on his two local businesses, including Acme Masking Company, a fourth-generation business that has been in the community for nearly 70 years (his son-in-law is now the general manager). Bailey also started Acme Coatings in the late 1980s, a repair station that overhauls turbine blades for jet engines.
Ryan Cannon, Avon’s new town manager, recalls when the town purchased the Town Hall Park property.
“Several trees, buildings and a home had to be removed to make way for the future Town Hall,” Cannon says. “I stood out there watching the demolition work being completed. I remember that every day when I drive in to work, and it reminds me of how far we’ve come.”
Cannon often marvels at what the town has accomplished in such a short period of time.
“Once things are done, people tend to forget what they used to be like and how much they have improved,” Cannon says.
A prime example is the former four-way stop at County Road 100 South and Dan Jones Road, where traffic flow used to be inefficient.
“Now, we have a beautiful roundabout that handles traffic so efficiently,” Cannon says.
The town also built a bridge to make traffic stops at train crossings a thing of the past.
“We so quickly forget what that old railroad crossing was like,” says Cannon, adding that just eight years ago, the Ronald Reagan Parkway bridge didn’t exist. “These improvements have changed the complexion of the Town of Avon and allowed it to evolve through the years to become the great community that it is today.”
Bailey is also pleased to see the improvements that the town is making, and the fact that the public seems supportive and appreciative of the Avon Police Department. He’s happy to see the township and the town working together.
“The town is responsible for the new sidewalks going in, which pleases me,” he says. “Is there more for the town to do? Absolutely.”
It’ll be fun to see what the next 25 years holds for Avon.
A Timeline of the County’s History
1823: The first schoolhouse is built in the county
1824: Hendricks County is established, named after Indiana Governor William Hendricks
1833: The first post office opens, known as the Hampton Post Office when the town was named Hampton
1876: The first county history is published in the local newspaper
1966: Interstate 465 opens
1995: Avon officially becomes a town
Source: Avon-Washington Township Public Library