About This Place
Avon Park is a city in Highlands County, Florida, United States. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the city's population in 2009 at 8,824. It is the oldest city in Highlands County, and was named after Stratford-upon-Avon, England.
The first permanent settler in Avon Park was Oliver Martin Crosby, a Connecticut native who moved to the area in 1884 to study the wildlife of the Everglades. By 1886, enough people had followed that the town of "Lake Forest" was founded. An English woman who had settled in the area convinced Crosby that the area was reminiscent of her home of Stratford-upon-Avon, and persuaded him to change the name of the settlement to Avon Park.
In 1956 and 1957, several U.S. Army biological warfare experiments were conducted in Avon Park. In the experiments, Army bio-warfare researchers released millions of mosquitoes on the town, in order to see if the insects would spread yellow fever and dengue fever. Hundreds of residents contracted a wide array of illnesses, including fevers, respiratory problems, stillbirths, encephalitis, and typhoid. Army researchers pretended to be public health workers, so that they could photograph and perform medical tests on the victims. Several people died as a result of the experiments.