This blog highlights the memorials of Acadia National Park. Some of the memorials commemorate people who helped establish the Park. Others honor people who cherished this beautiful area. The blog also presents historical aspects of Acadia NP.
No part of this blog may be reproduced without the author's permission.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Rudolph Brunnow and the Myths about
Rudolph E. Brunnow
by the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association in 1913 as chairman of its
path committee, a position he held until his death, Rudolph Brunnow built
Acadia National Park's signature hiking trail, the Precipice Trail, on the east
face of Champlain Mountain, as well as the challenging Orange and Black Path
and the exciting Beehive Trail.*1
On the Precipice Trail
Brunnow's achievements that have drawn hikers to the Park from far and wide,
local storytellers appear determined to tell visitors three myths about the
man, i.e., he was a German, he built his oceanfront home for his fiancé who
perished on the Titanic, and he died from an accident on the Precipice. None is
Ernest Brunnow (1859-1917) was born in Ann Arbor, MI, the only child of a
German father and American mother. His father, Franz Friedrich Ernst Brunnow
(1821-1891), left Berlin to become a professor of astronomy and the director of
the observatory at the University of Michigan in 1854 and in 1857 married
Rebecca Lloyd Tappan (1836-1893), the daughter of the president of the
University of Michigan.
in Europe, Rudolph taught at the University of Heidelberg between 1889 and
1904. In 1894 he married Marguerite Beckwith (1872-1907) in Lenox, MA and they
went to live in Europe. After her death in Bonn, Germany, in 1907 he was left
with five young children. He moved back to the United States to have his
children educated as Americans and accepted a position at Princeton University,
becoming a full professor of Semitic philology in 1908.
summering in Bar Harbor with his children in 1909, he bought property along
Schooner Head Road in 1910 and the next year started construction of the
cottage he named Meadow Brook after
the stream that flows nearby. He occupied it in 1914, having stayed at nearby
Hare Forest cottage off Schooner Head Road between 1912 and July 1914
apparently to oversee its construction. His cottage, renamed High Seas by a subsequent owner,
survived the fire of 1947 and is now owned by the Jackson Laboratory.
Harbor newspaper's obituary of Brunnow is the apparent origin of the fiancé
myth and the German-by-birth claim. It stated he had a fiancé for whom he had
built Meadow Brook and who had perished on the Titanic in 1912.*2There is no evidence to corroborate the
newspaper's fiancé claim. It is interesting to note the reported birth in
Germany was apologetically corrected the next week by the newspaper to reflect
his birth in Ann Arbor and U.S. citizenry.*3It did not mention its fiancé claim.
died of pneumonia in Bar Harbor on April 14, 1917. His children went to live
with his mother-in-law, Margaretta F. Beckwith, in Philipstown, NY. He is
buried in Princeton Cemetery in Princeton, NJ, next to his oldest son, Eric,
who had died the year before from infantile paralysis while a freshman at
death was not the result of an accident on the Precipice. His brother-in-law,
Edward P. Beckwith, however, had a serious accident on Champlain Mountain on October
28, 1916 while exploring for a new trail off the Orange and Black Path with
Brunnow and three of Brunnow's children. Rocks gave way and Beckwith fell 20
feet. After a 4-hour rescue he was taken to the Bar Harbor hospital where it
was determined he had injured his hip.*4This is likely the accident our storytellers have confused in their tale
of Brunnow's death.
shines brightly in the trails history of Acadia NP. It serves no good purpose
to perpetuate these myths.