First in a series of historic hiking trail highlights leading up to the Acadia Centennial
Update on Feb. 15, 2022 with biographical info on Rudolph Brunnow provided by his great-granddaughter. She also debunks a legend that Brunnow’s death from pneumonia came after he fell while hiking.
When Princeton professor Rudolph E. Brunnow designed this intricate path up the east face of Champlain in the early 1900s, he was apparently as passionate about the trail as his university, since he named it after his school’s colors.
In honor of Brunnow and today’s trail crew, why not share a photo of yourself on the Orange and Black Path with a caption of your school colors on our Facebook page? Thanks to our friend Maureen, a Georgetown alum who took a picture of a couple of “blue and grays” on the Orange and Black, for inspiring this idea.
Our favorite part of the path is the recently reopened historic section leading from Schooner Head Road, up to a terraced area where you can sit on granite slabs to rest, take in the views or strike up a conversation. That’s about 0.5 mile one-way.
If the rest of the path to the Precipice Trail is closed for peregrine falcon nesting season (mid-May through mid-August), you can take a spur to the Champlain North Ridge Trail instead. Get spectacular views of Frenchman Bay from the 1,058-foot summit of Champlain.
Brunnow started the Orange and Black Path from his 160-foot-long, 40-room mansion, which overlooks Frenchman Bay and Egg Rock.
Brunnow built the mansion in 1912 and it is now owned by the Jackson Laboratory, a private, nonprofit organization focused on genetics research.
Brunnow was a prolific trail builder during a golden era of trail construction.
In the 1910s, the Princeton professor, who was leader of the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association, supervised construction of the Orange and Black Path, the Precipice Trail and the Beehive Trail, according to the “Acadia Trails Treatment Plan,” the cultural landscape report for Acadia’s historic trail system.
Brunnow was noted for using iron rungs and ladders to ascend the trails. He was also the first to take direct and precipitous routes up cliff faces such as Champlain and the Beehive.
He may also have suffered a tragic death.
According to Julie A. O’Connell, a great-granddaughter of Professor Brunnow, Brunnow died of pneumonia, but she told us that it was in no way related to a fall while mountain climbing, as one old story goes. The fall that is commonly referenced in relation to Rudolph Burnnow was in reality an event that involved Brunnow’s ’s brother-in-law, Edward Pierrepont Beckwith, several years prior to Brunnow’s death, O’Connell told us.
Brunnow was the son of Franz Frederich Ernst Brunnow, and Rebecca Lloyd Livingston Tappan, according to Ms. O’Connell, who provided information at our request in a comment posted at the bottom of this story. He was born at the time when his father was at the University of Michigan, where Brunnow’s grandfather, Henry Phillip Tappan, was serving as the University’s first president.
An obituary in the New York Times gave no cause of Brunnow’s death, saying only that Brunnow, 58, died in April of 1917. The obituary did note that one of his five children, 17-year-old son, Eric, a freshman at Princeton, had died from infantile paralysis in 1916, or polio, and that his wife of 13 years, Marguerite Beckwith, had died in 1907.
Brunnow married Beckwith n 1894. She was the granddaughter of Edwards Pierrepont who served as US Attorney General and Minister to England during the Grant Administration.
During the first five years of their marrige, Brunnow and his wife extensively traveled, most notably the Middle East, including Petra, Jordan with the wife disguising herself as a man for this journey, and she was prohibited from taking this journey as a woman, according to O’Connell.
The couple had moved to Germany by 1907 where the wife died following the birth of their fifth child. Brunnow packed up the children and returned to the US in order to honor his promise to his wife that the children be educated in the US, according to O’Connell. Brunnow returned to Princeton, and eventually built Meadowbrooke on MDI. Brunnow had been an avid mountain climber his entire life, which is one of the features that attracted him to the Bar Harbor region.
The Acadia Trail crew did a great job restoring the Orange and Black Path after an October 2006 3.8-magnitude earthquake struck and caused a massive rockslide, closing the trail for three years.
Rudolph Brunnow would be proud.