Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Curran Path - a Once Long and Lovely Walk

At the northwest corner of Eagle Lake, about three miles west of Bar Harbor's village green, there is a cove, almost touching Eagle Lake Road/Route 233. It is known locally as "Nick's Cove."

The topmost corner of the cove was once the start of a trail referred to as the Curran Path. It came into existence about 1885 and started on property owned by the Currans. It ran south along the west side of Eagle Lake, turned west to skirt Conners Nubble and entered a valley called the Southwest Pass between Sargent Mountain and The Bubbles. There it joined a woods road and continued south to the northwest end of Jordan Pond for an overall distance of 2.8 miles. From here a hiker could continue around Jordan Pond, perhaps to enjoy popovers and tea at the Jordan Pond House at its south end. For those wishing a more strenuous outing, alternative destinations were the summits of Sargent, Penobscot, Pemetic or The Bubbles. Others seeking a lengthy but easier hike could continue to Seal Harbor via the Seaside Path or Northeast Harbor via the Asticou Trail.

1887 Map of Mount Desert Island
showing Curran House and Lake House
The name Nick's Cove is a reference to Nicholas F. Curran (1840-1901). He and his wife Mary Harris (Ellison) (1839-1917), who married in 1871, were from Bangor, Maine, where Mary was born and where she worked for many years as a librarian for the Bangor Public Library. Nicholas had emigrated from Ireland in 1855. They purchased two acres of land abutting the cove in 1884. The Curran Path likely assumed its name from the Curran's property over which it passed.  On the property were a stable, shop and house, which the Currans operated as a small hotel, aptly named the Curran House.*1  A short walk to the east and near the Eagle Lake outlet was the Lake House.*2  The Currans ran both as places to stay, dine and hire equipment or guides to enjoy the lake. Fire destroyed the Lake House in 1891. By 1896 Nicholas was the proprietor of a second Curran House, a small hotel on Main Street near the wharf in downtown Bar Harbor. In 1902 Mary Curran, now a widow, sold the property to Frank Brewer, who sold it to the Bar Harbor Water Company in 1915. The very next day, the water company conveyed the property to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations with the provision that nothing would ever be built or maintained upon it, out of its interest to protect the purity of Bar Harbor's water supply.

Lake House
Courtesy: Maine Historic Preservation Commission
It is interesting to note that Nicholas complained to the Bar Harbor Water Company in 1897 about the loss of his property shoreline due to the higher water level following the company's construction of the dam at the lake's north end. The lost property extended to a depth of 47 feet. The BHWC built the dam about 1895, which raised the lake's natural water level as much as three feet.

Acadia National Park stopped maintaining the Curran Path in the 1950s, and it is now mostly untraceable. There are interesting stone steps, however, alongside the lake's edge due east of Carriage Road Post 9 near the path's north entrance.*3  The Curran Path first appeared on 1896 maps compiled by Waldron Bates, Edward L. Rand and Herbert Jaques. The last map to display the whole path from Nick's Cove to Jordan Pond was the 1941 Path and Road Map of the Eastern Part of Mount Desert Island, revised and published by William Jay Turner.*4  The 1942 Topographic Map - Acadia National Park and Vicinity showed the start of the path about 0.6 mile south of its original beginning. Perhaps the rise in water level, which aggravated Curran, obliterated the north section of the path. It does not appear construction of the carriage road affected this section. The 1961 Appalachian Mountain Club Map of Mount Desert Island reprised the complete path, but described it as "condition unknown or abandoned."

It is easy to imagine the Curran Path as a long and lovely woods walk joining two beautiful lakes. Maybe, some day, the Park will reopen it for our enjoyment.

Postscript: Nicholas and Mary Curran are buried in Bangor's Mount Hope Cemetery.

1  Curran House GPS location: N44° 22.614'  W068° 15.246'
2  Lake House GPS location (approx.): N44° 22.590'  W068° 14.787' Near the Lake House people could board the stern-wheeler Wauwinet for a cruise down Eagle Lake to catch the cog railway to the summit of Green Mountain (renamed Cadillac Mountain). The Green Mountain Railway went out of business in 1890, a year before the Lake House burned.
3  Stone steps GPS location: N44° 22.572'  W068° 15.165'
4  Turner was the Northeast Harbor Village Improvement Society path committee chairman from 1921-46.

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