As I enjoy the thousands of lights at Hudson Gardens this season, I recall a long-ago conversation with my good friend Evelyn Hudson.
She told me she had been in the Littleton city planning office (a visit she made often to question city council decisions that affected local beautification) and she saw a drawing that projected a future for the lovely green Santa Fe Drive acreage she and her husband, Col. King C. Hudson, owned — where their nationally recognized restaurant, The Country Kitchen, was located, starting in 1939.
It showed rows of apartment structures where the handsome log restaurant building stood on an expanse of green lawn, surrounded by specially-selected evergreen trees.
Angry, she went home, called her lawyer and quickly set up a foundation that could preserve the 30 acres of lovely riverside land in Littleton as open space, so people could forever enjoy its beauty! At first, she, her nephew and a few local Hudson friends made up a board, which later expanded to include additional interested people. (I was fortunate to be involved from the start with planning, which included discussions about whether it should become a formal garden, following French design, with straight paths, squared beds and rows of plants, or a more casual English garden with curving paths, casual groups of plants and a bit of water.)
Local landscape architect Doug Rockne was hired to help lay out a structure, and soon, skilled British plantsman Andrew Pierce was also recruited to begin selecting roses, trees, shrubs and flowering plants by the hundreds.
The property is now open daily, year-round, for people to stroll, rest, picnic and enjoy nature, just away from the noise of busy Santa Fe Drive, with sound buffered by a wall of evergreen trees. Look for the sign across to the west from Arapahoe Community College.
A story tells of a day soon after King and Evelyn Hudson moved to Littleton: She surveyed the property and decided it was lacking the dark, spiked accent of evergreen trees. The sometimes-brusque Colonel mildly said “yes, dear” and later returned with the first of many truckloads, which they planted.
In Decembers, Hudson Gardens now celebrates a ticketed “A Hudson Christmas.” Doors open at 5 p.m. and lights go out at 9:30. Nixon’s Coffeehouse at the north end, near the South Platte River, is open for hot beverages and snacks.
Nights scheduled for this season are Dec. 9-12, Dec. 16-24, and Dec. 26-31.
Families will encounter giant snowmen, dancing Christmas trees, a popular holiday light tunnel that especially attracts kids who love to run through it (sometimes hollering), hundreds of large and small evergreens with colored lights, lighted bare-branched deciduous trees, and miles of pathways, both paved and not.
Enjoy the numerous works of public art placed among the trees and shrubs, a bow to Evelyn Hudson’s longtime interest in art and her years of service on Littleton’s Fine Art Committee. (She was an original member.)
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, public events frequently are canceled or rescheduled. Check with organizers before you go.
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