20th Anniversary

Our 20th Anniversary….

2016 is the 20th Anniversary of the founding of the Friends of Beckley Furnace, and of the Preservation of the Furnace.

In this special year:

During this year, we’ll be sharing with you photos and other artifacts from Beckley’s past, as well as those relating to the preservation efforts themselves.  We’ll bring you recollections of those who were most closely involved in saving this structure — and the whole Beckley complex — from the effects of the passage of time. We have a few special projects in the works as well, including events you’ll want to attend.

You’ll see more here soon about these activities, so come back often!

But we’ll keep doing:

Of course, during the year we’ll continue to do what we do all the time and have done for the past 20 years:

–Offer our summer Saturday guided tours.

–Welcome visiting school groups, historical societies, and other groups with presentations and tours targeted to their interests.

–Add resources to this website about the history of Beckley Furnace, the iron industry, and our place in the world of the Upper Housatonic Valley and the world.

–Research our site and our area to learn more about how iron was made here — and what else went on here as well.

–Support initiatives in teacher education.

–Create media, especially video, to make the history clearer and easier to understand.

–Collaborate with other organizations, like the Falls Village/Canaan Historical Society, the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, the Salisbury Association, and a host of others.

 

New Videos Coming!

The feedback we receive from visitors, as well as our own experience, tells us that while words are necessary, and photos are great to have, nothing conveys a message quite like a video.  Our two youngest board members, Christian Allyn and Eleanore Jenks, have decided to take advantage of this and to create some more videos for the site.

UPDATE!!

See the video Christian and Eleanore made about slag!  Go see that right now!!

About Christian

Christian, as many visitors know, is our main docent for the summers.  He’s a student at UConn, and as well being an expert on the Beckley Furnace site, has a family background that includes quarries that produced some of the limestone that fed Beckley Furnace, back in the day, and still produces limestone up the hill on the other side of Route 44.

He’s known about Beckleychristian2015 Furnace as long as he can remember, and has been a key member of  our summer staff for the past four summers.  Did we say that he knows a lot about Beckley Furnace and the iron industry?  Well, he definitely does!

He also has some expertise that none of the rest of us at Beckley has:  he knows about plants — in fact, his majors at UConn are in that area, and during his years at Housatonic Valley Regional High School (where he also volunteers in developing the school archives) he was particularly active in FFA.

For many of the videos planned as well as two that are already “in the can,” Chris is (usually) the presenter and tells us what we need to know.

About Eleanore

Eleanore, our youngest and newest board member, is still in high school in New York City.  Her ties directly to Beckley, while nowhere as lengthy as Chris’ ties, are still substantial.  In fact, you would not be reading this material if it were not for Elli and her hard work and creativity, because she was the designer and builder of the Beckley Furnace website, and doElli2015es most of the maintenance on the site as well.   The welcome video for this site was her work, all the way from the filming, to the voiceover, to the music, to the post processing.

Elli’s family background includes some significant portions of heavy industry as well.  A likely distant ancestor was a major player in the Saugus Iron Works in Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1600s, and more recently another ancestor held a patent on making cinder blocks (which, like the products of the New England Slag Company, another East Canaan Barnum and Richardson business, are a repurposed industrial waste product).  And just as Chris lives within a stone’s throw from a limestone quarry, Eleanore lives a stone’s throw from the site of one of the 26 blast furnaces that once dotted the Salisbury Iron District, of which, of course, Beckley Furnace was one.

As you might have guessed from her work on the website, Elli is mostly (but not entirely) involved in the videography of this new video series.

What’s coming next?

As well as the upcoming videos, there’s another project the two have in mind.  It’s something that all smartphone users will appreciate.  They are planning a series of QR codes posted around the Beckley site that people with smartphones will be able to click on and be connected automatically to material on this website about the items in the area where the QR code in question is posted.  It’s not economically possible to create permanent signs for many aspects of the Beckley Furnace complex, and we think that the use of QR codes will help us provide information to visitors quickly and economically.  We’re thinking about the slag pile and the Leffel Turbine as likely candidates for QR codes of their own, but there will certainly be others.

So, thanks to Christian and Eleanore!!!

 

A new drone overview!

With thanks to Brian Wilcox, of www.connecticutphoto.com, here’s some very nice video footage of the Beckley site, with the leaves mostly off the trees, permitting a good sense of what actually is where.

It’s on the timeline on our Facebook page.

 

Some super views of the Blackberry River, too!!

 

Enjoy!!

Today … and afterwards

Today, Saturday, October 11, is the last scheduled Saturday this year for our experienced guides to be at Beckley to show you around, explain how things worked (and occasionally didn’t), and answer your questions about Beckley Furnace, the historic iron industry of the  Upper Housatonic Valley, and the ways it affected our nation and the world.

However, it’s a little chilly, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s also raining.  If it keeps raining through the 10 AM – 2 PM period we normally staff the furnace, we suspect we’ll stay home.  If the rain moves on — and it well may do that — likely you will find a guide there to help you.

We do need to say that even though regular staffing by our experienced volunteer guides ends today, Beckley is still a great place to visit when weather permits.  First of all, unlike its appearance when it was a working blast furnace, it’s a beautiful spot — and a Connecticut State Park!  Secondly, there are many explanatory signs scattered around the Beckley site that provide explanations and diagrams.  (Yes, occasionally our guides DO get informed by visitors that they would rather do it themselves, using these signs!)  And finally, you can get additional information while you’re visiting via this website!  We don’t have the site blanketed by wifi (that’s coming in the future) but there is a strong cell signal everywhere on the site, so you can look things up via your smartphone or tablet.

We continue to welcome school groups and other groups — there’s information elsewhere on this website about how to arrange for a group visit — and can produce guides who can present material tailored to your group’s interests and level of sophistication.

Watch this website (and our Facebook page, http://facebook.com/beckleyfurnace) for more news and plans for the future of Beckley.  And, of course, we’ll be back in the spring!

Making the Welcome video

Here’s how the Welcome video was made…

The Girl Scouts who redid this website for their Silver Awards felt strongly that every website deserves a welcome video — so they made one for us!  (You can find and watch it on the Welcome page).  Eleanore took the lead on this part of the project since she has an interest in videography and had made several videos already.

Shooting video
Here’s Eleanore, the Girl Scout who was in charge of the Welcome video

The first step was planning — including a site visit to shoot some trial footage.  First problem:  the roar of the waterfall made the possibility of live audio to accompany the video a doubtful proposition.  Solution:  a two-part one — first, a musical soundtrack, and second, voiceover narration.

Where to get a musical background?  Well, there is lots of “music by the yard” available for purchase, so the girls had that option.  However, Eleanore listened to some of it, decided that there was no reason to buy it when she could make it herself, so she did.  The piano accompaniment for the video is 100% Eleanore’s work.

Filming the members

Helen captures Eleanore capturing some of the Friends of Beckley Furnace talking

 

Helen, the other Girl Scout, wasn’t idle on this phase.  It’s often useful to have some still photos to intersperse with the video segments, and Helen was in charge of capturing the necessary stills — as well as finding herself the subject of a bit of continuity that appears in the finished video.  Below you see her from a “frame grab” in the finished video (she was using the still camera, so to get a photo of her we had to grab a frame from the video).  She was also pretty much everywhere making sure people were where they were supposed to be for the camera.

Helen frame grab
Helen, the still photographer, also provided continuity

We mentioned earlier that we needed to dub audio tracks.  Well, the musical part was already taken care of, but there was still the voice-over to record.  After some discussion, the girls decided that Eleanore could do this part too.  They worked on the script, and finally it was time for Eleanore to face the microphone and record it.

Voiceover recording
Eleanore recording the voice-over for the Welcome video

Now all the pieces were ready.  The raw video itself was in the can, as they say.  The music was composed and recorded.  The stills to be interspersed in the video were ready to be used.  The voice-over track to match with the video track had been recorded and the best parts selected.

If you’ve ever had any contact with videography, movie-making, or even home movies to show to friends, you know that the hardest work is not holding the camera, or being in front of it.  The hardest part, and the most time-consuming part, is the part spent in what the video pros call “post” — which stands for post-production, which is basically editing the video and making it into a coherent movie.

It tends to be pretty solitary work, except for periodically showing problematic parts around and asking for ideas.  But post was ultimately Eleanore’s responsibility to do.

Welcome video post-processing
Eleanore, seen hard at work in post-processing of the Welcome video

You can see the finished product on our Hello page, and we hope you will take a look at it and recognize all the parts that make it up and appreciate the effort that the girls put into it.

The girls would like to extend special thanks to the adults who appeared in the video and who supported its production, particularly Christian Allyn and Dick Paddock.

Beckley is a State Park

While Beckley is mainly the state’s Industrial Monument…

it’s also a park, and there are definitely park-like aspects to the place.

There are, for example, four picnic tables — and not so close to each other that one feels one is in a cafeteria.  Here’s one at the top of the dam:

Picnic table at Beckley Furnace
Here’s one of the four picnic tables at Beckley Furnace — this one overlooking the dam

 

There are two picnic tables in front of the furnace itself, in the area that once was the casting shed, and another on the lawn overlooking the new turbine house.

 

Dam and pool at Beckley
The dam — and the pool — are scenic attractions at the site

This section of the Blackberry River is also popular with anglers.  Frequently there are furnace site tours going on at the same time that people are actively fishing in the Blackberry just a few feet away.

Just on the other side of this wall, in fact:

Wall at Beckley Furnace
This attractive stone wall has separated the furnace complex from the Blackberry River for many years

Occasionally families take a dip in the pool below the dam — but the water is pretty cold, and there’s no lifeguard on duty.

However, it’s not always necessary to be doing something active.  Beckley today offers something that it most assuredly it did NOT offer back in the day when it was an active iron blast furnace, with all the noise, bustle, and confusion that accompanied it.  With the waterfall as background noise, the Beckley Furnace site is also a place to be contemplative — to be alone with your thoughts…

With the roar of the waterfall in the background, it's a place to be alone with your thoughts...
With the roar of the waterfall in the background, it’s a place to be alone with your thoughts…

What you will NOT find at Beckley Furnace:

Yes, Beckley is a State Park.  However, please be aware that:

  • there are no public rest rooms at the facility
  • mentioned above but worth saying again: there are no lifeguards on duty
  • while there is a good cellphone signal at the site, there are no public phones
  • during most hours there are no rangers or other park personnel on duty
  • BUT there are no admission fees or other charges for visiting the facility!

 

 

 

 

Housatonic Heritage

Housatonic Heritage

Beckley Furnace has a close relationship with Housatonic Heritage, the umbrella organization that represents the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area.

We’re proud to publish the Iron Heritage Trail map and brochure! It’s free, available at Beckley Furnace, at any area Historical Society, at most libraries, and at many hotels, inns, and restaurants in our area.  We are also proud that Beckley Furnace is the centerpiece of this set of tours around our area.

The Iron Heritage Trail makes it easy to see important elements of our industrial and social history via nine separate suggested tours.  Each tour is a reasonable objective for a morning or afternoon, and each also provides opportunities for more study.

Here are the tours suggested in the brochure:

Tour I:  Beckley Furnace (that’s us!!).  No driving in this tour; we believe there’s enough at Beckley to keep nearly anyone interested and involved for a couple of hours.

Tour II: Beckley Furnace to Norfolk and Colebrook, CT

Tour III: Beckley Furnace to North Canaan, Falls Village, and Amesville, CT.

Tour IV:  Salisbury, Mount Riga, and Lakeville

Tour V: Lime Rock to Sharon

Tour VI:  Sharon, Cornwall, Kent, and Roxbury, CT

Tour VII: Amenia, NY to Clove Valley Ironworks, Beekman, NY

Tour VIII:  Millerton, NY; Copake, NY; Chatham, NY

Tour IX:  North Canaan, CT to Lanesborough, MA

The brochure also includes convenient articles about the discovery of the so-called Salisbury Ore, the blast furnaces of the Salisbury Iron District, and the natural local resources that made the Upper Housatonic valley area a natural one for the production of iron.

So you can spot it among all the other brochures vying for your attention, here’s what it looks like:

Iron Heritage Trail brochure
Iron Heritage Trail brochure

 

 

Director Staffing at Beckley Furnace for 2014

Summer Staffing by Directors

Beckley Furnace is staffed by knowledgeable personnel on Saturday mornings during the summer months, when we see most of our visitors. 

We try to ensure that there will be at least one member of the Friends of Beckley Furnace board of directors — and, when possible, two or more — on site at these times.  This helps us keep in close contact with our visitors, and also provides our visitors with direct contact with experts in various aspects of the historic operation of the Salisbury Iron industry.

The table below provides the Saturday mornings when we will be staffed in 2014 and the names of the directors who will be on site that day. 

FOBF SATURDAY DUTY ROSTER 2014

REVISED AS OF REQUESTS SUBMITTED BY MAY 15

Dick Paddock and will be present each Saturday; Intern ( and board member) Chris Allyn will be present each Saturday through August 23; Ed Kirby will be part time most Saturdays.  From September 6 through October 11 staffing will be announced on our Facebook page when available.

Cliff Waldo will act as a substitute if something comes up on your scheduled Saturday.

************************************************************

 

May 31 – Walt Michaels

June 7 –  Geoff Brown

June 14 – Ian McCunn

June 21 – Bob Anderson

June 28 – Fred Warner

July 5 –  Mike Clark

July 12 –  All: Dedication of the turbine site.

July 19 – Geoff Brown

July 26 –  Tony Cantele

August 2 –  Bob Anderson

August 9 –  Ed Kirby

August 16 –  Ian McCunn

August 23 – Tony Cantele

August 30 –  Walt Michaels

The Friends of Beckley Furnace look forward to welcoming you to Beckley Furnace, Connecticut’s designated Industrial Monument!

 

About this Project

This website began as a portion of a Girl Scout Silver Award Project undertaken in 2013 by two then-seventh grade girls named Eleanore and Helen.

The project began when they visited Beckley Furnace the summer before they entered seventh grade. They were fascinated by Beckley Furnace, and they thought that other people would be as well.  The Friends of Beckley Furnace, the board that restored, maintains, and interprets Beckley Furnace, paid attention.  The interests of the girls and the interest of the Board coincided perfectly; for years the Board has been trying to better inform people about Beckley Furnace and also about the iron industry in general.

While the girls originally proposed create a smartphone app to make the old Beckley website more portable and accessible, for a variety of reasons, including time constraints and the cost of building an Apple app as well as an Android app and maintaining them, the idea of creating a new website that would be as usable on mobile devices as on laptops and desktop computers emerged as a better alternative.

The girls started with the original  Beckley Furnace website, and from there they created an all new website based in WordPress and providing both the desired mobile capability and the capability of building educational and research resources that would be helpful to teachers, students, researchers — as well ordinary people who simply want to learn more about Beckley Furnace and the historical iron industry of the Upper Housatonic Valley.

The project quickly became more than “just a Girl Scout project.”  Based in part on the girls’ vision and their diligence, the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area undertook, with the aid of CT Humanities, a planning study about use of local history landmarks in teaching social studies (with Beckley Furnace as a case example).  The Friends of Beckley Furnace, through the Town of North Canaan, has applied for a STEAP grant to permit needed upgrading of the Beckley Furnace site and buildings to better accomplish their educational mission.  Who knows where it will all lead!

The Girl Scout project that Eleanore and Helen conceived in 2013 has mushroomed to become a regional effort, with state and national support and participation — and we have only begun!

 

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