Hours: 4:00am - 10:00pm Park Type: Mini Acres: 4.75 Restroom: No Drinking Water: No Shoreline On: Lake Monona
History of Hudson Park:
Hudson Park, located at 2919 Lakeland Avenue, stretches along the shores of Lake Monona, and is complete with 4.75 acres of lake views, ancient mounds, and new improvements completed in 2012. After the city acquired two parcels of land in 1891 and 1902, Hudson Park became the site of an early resort hotel, the all city swim meet, and a 100-foot pier with a diving board. The park is named for Belle Hudson Mahan, one of Madison's early settlers who contributed to the growth and prosperity of the area.
In 1990, the park became a City of Madison Historical Landmark because it contains three well preserved Native American animal effigies. The area was originally comprised on 30 Indian mounds, dated back to as far as 500 A.D., and included bird, turtle, lizard, linear, round, bear, and lynx mounds. Not only were the mounds surveyed in 1990, they were also surveyed in 1888 by T.H. Lewis, a prominent surveyor. According to his notes, currently at the Minnesota State Archives, he surveyed 9 of the 22 mounds he observed in Hudson Park. The three mounds remaining are bear, lynx, and lizard effigies. The Elmside group, where the preserved bear and lynx mounds reside, are marked with a bronze plaque that states, "Bear and Lynx effigy mounds, 500-1000 AD, these mounds were constructed by a people of a gathering culture who met periodically at ceremonial grounds to bury their dead – Madison Landmark Commission." Wisconsin has the highest concentration of effigy mounds in the United States, and the Madison area has one of the highest concentrations of effigy mounds remaining. While there are 3 preserved in Hudson Park, with many more located in Madison parks, most were destroyed from the 19th century onward due to agricultural practices, and city development.
Not only does Hudson Park contain effigy mounds, a Native American artist from the Ho-Chunk nation named Harry Whitehorse sculpted a memorial to his ancestors to place in the park in 1990. The sculpture was created from the trunk of a hackberry tree struck by lightning, and contains carvings of a wolf, bear, cub, lynx, thunderbird, eagle, and a Ho Chunk warrior. The sculpture also overlooks the effigy mounds. However, in August of 2007, the effigy was removed from the Park because of the decay from weather and insects, even after being restored in 1997. The statute was returned to Whitehorse's Monona studio, but didn't remain there long. Several options to rehab the statue were discussed at public meetings, including re-siting the repaired sculpture at an indoor location, casting in bronze, or replicating in stone. However, Whitehorse preferred to not separate the sculpture from the sacred effigy mounds. Whitehorse then prepared the sculpture for casting in 2008. The cost for the casting was estimated at $55,000, which was raised by the Ho Chunk Nation, the Whitehorse family, Madison Arts Commission, the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, Goodman Community Center, in addition to individual donors. The statue was returned to its rightful place in Hudson Park on June 26, 2009, with a formal dedication on September 12, 2009.
In addition to the ancient mounds, a plaque commemorating Lt. Gerald Stull, an Air National Guard pilot, and his bravery in May of 1958 remains in the park. While flying back to Truax Field, the Lieutenant experienced trouble with his engine, and crash-landed in Lake Monona to avoid landing in the densely populated neighborhood surrounding Hudson Park. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross at Tyndall AFB in Florida on August 5, in addition to the establishment of a trust fund to provide an education for the infant son he left behind with his wife, Alice. Although Lt. Stull did not survive the crash, it is believed that his heroic actions saved the lives of many people including the Hudson Park and Olbrich Park neighborhoods, employees of Kipp Corp. factory, students at St. Bernard's church and school, and employees of the nearby Oscar Mayer plant.
Madison Parks is proud to have Hudson Park as one of its 264 parks. Improvements to the beach area safety, accessibility, and beauty were completed in 2012. These projects included replacing the deteriorating 6 foot high stone wall, in addition to creating stairs and safer access points for kayaks and canoes. In order to protect the eroding shoreline, Madison Parks installed vegetated riprap. Throughout the process, the neighborhood also heavily contributed ideas and input to the design. Madison Parks is proud to have such involved residents of the Hudson Park neighborhood, who donated time and funds to keep their park accessible, safe, and fun. The Parks Division hopes these improvements enhance what Hudson Park has to offer – Native American history and tributes, family-fun activities, and lake access.