Cotillion Gardens is an RV Park located just outside of the town of Felton, California. But before we tell you about the RV park, we would like to share with you the history of this area, which dates all the way back to 1926!
Named for John B. Felton, a former Oakland, California mayor, judge, and a San Francisco Bay Area investor in his day, the town of Felton is a historic logging community that served as the lower terminus of the San Lorenzo Valley Logging Flume from Boulder Creek. Construction of the logging flume began in 1874 and, when formally opened in October 1875, was augmented by a new rail line to transport logs to the wharf in Santa Cruz.
This rail line, named the Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad began operation in late 1875. It was taken over by the South Pacific Coast Railroad in 1879, which was in turn taken over by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1887. This is where the story of Cotillion Gardens starts to unfold ...
A few years before the rail road, a San Francisco entrepreneur named Joseph Welch purchased several acres of land in 1867 and opened the famous Big Trees resort, now known as Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The very name Big Trees brought tourists flocking to the San Lorenzo Valley well before the trains first operated. Welch developed a hotel, dance pavillion, dining hall, cabins and, later, a station alongside the train tracks.
At some point (date unknown), a swinging foot bridge was built across the San Lorenzo River to allow tourists another entrance into Big Trees. It was accessible by turning left, off of what is now Highway 9, onto Old Big Trees Road. At the end of this road -- which is where Cotillion Gardens is now located -- motor tourists could park their cars and walk across.
In early 1926, the acreage surrounding the spot where Old Big Trees Road terminates was purchased, and a new resort was built to compete with Big Trees. The owners named this travel destination Sequoia Gardens. Developed as a campground and picnic area for visitors of the Big Trees park, the original complex opened during the summer of 1926 and included a restaurant, dance pavilion, tea room, souvenir shop, and cottages for guest lodgings. It quickly became a popular resort for evening dances and people eager to visit the Big Trees, which were accessible via the seasonal river fjord or swinging foot bridge. Develeopment was continued for several years, with a total of 26 cabins being built, all with hot and cold running water, electricity, and stoves.
Restaraunt and Curio Store
River Front Cabins
Even though it was a seasonal destination open only during the warmer months, Sequoia Gardens thrived. That is, until two separate disasters sealed its fate. First, in 1954, the primary well for the property ran dry, forcing the resort to close for the 1955 season. This was followed by The Great "Christmas Flood" of 1955, the costliest, deadliest, and most well-known flood in the history of Santa Cruz. While most of the flood damage occurred within the city of Santa Cruz itself, Sequoia Gardens was not immune to the strength of the San Lorenzo river.
The storm caused the San Lorenzo River to rise quickly, and the flood waters soon became higher than the resort, overrunning the bank. The strength and speed of the storm surge quickly ripped apart almost all of Sequoia Gardens' buildings. When the weather subsided, there was not much left of the structures that had graced this once-beautiful resort. It was at this point that the owners shut down Sequoia Gardens and put it up for sale.
For the next several years, the history of the property is a little vague. However, it appears that the site was informally used as a mobile home park. No data exists as to whether it even had a formal name during this time. Then two gentlemen came along with a vision of turning the property into an RV Park. On November 16, 1962, it was announced that the property had been purchased, and that articles of incorporation were filed as Cotillion Gardens, Inc. Shortly thereafter, the conversion began.
It took them several years to complete the task and to obtain the proper permitting, but sometime in 1968, this gorgeous redwood-laden area was once again open to the public as Cotillion Gardens RV Park. We are proud to say that since 1968, thousands of RVers visit the park annually. This area is special and much-loved by those who come to spend time so close to nature.
We hope that you, too, will come and enjoy what Cotillion Gardens has to offer.