Questions about the Beckley Furnace site
Questions that are NOT about iron making, necessarily….
Questions come up frequently that aren’t exactly about iron history or about how Beckley Furnace worked. Some are about the surrounding area, and others are about what else can be seen here.
Here are a few of them:
Where did the workers at the furnace live?
Well, that depends. A few hundred yards east of the furnace, on Lower Road, on the right hand side of the road, you’ll see a few houses, all very similar in design, all in a row. These were houses built — and once owned — by the Barnum and Richardson Company, to house their workers and their families. The house on the right, closest to Beckley, was the house occupied by the ironmaster, we’ve been told. The other houses would have been occupied by furnace workers with jobs that were very important to the furnace operation. (Please understand that all these houses are private homes now, and are not open to visitors.)
However, remember that at one time there were three blast furnaces operating in the immediate area, so that’s not enough company housing for all of them.
We believe that single workers often boarded with farm families in the area. Occasionally people operated boarding houses as well. A few families may have owned their own houses separate from company housing, particularly those who did not work full-time at the furnace.
So there isn’t a simple answer to this one. And we’re still researching it!
Why are there five holes in the rock in the middle of the river, all in a row? What were they for?
Yup, they are hard to miss when the water isn’t too high, and if you look closely at the riverbed below the dam, midway between the dam and the furnace. Check out our post called “Holes in the rock“.
So, what is slag?
Well, we’ve made a video that answers that exact question, and tells you where to actually see and touch slag at Beckley Furnace! Check our post about slag.
What else is around here from the iron industry?
Quite a few things, really! First of all, Beckley Furnace is the centerpiece of the Iron Heritage Trail, a product of Housatonic Heritage, so pretty clearly there’s lots to see in our general area.
In our immediate area, there were at one time two other blast furnaces operating, both of which were downstream on the Blackberry River, and both of which were taken down, so there’s nothing left of them to see. If you go about a quarter mile west on Lower Road, you’ll see a limestone wall on your right, similar to the charging wall at Beckley. As it turns out, that wall was the charging wall for the oldest furnace here, known as the Forbes Furnace or East Canaan #1 (Beckley Furnace is also sometimes called East Canaan #2). Where was East Canaan #3? It was called “the furnace in the field” and it was located nearer East Canaan #1, but across Lower Road from the Blackberry River.
If you’ll stand in the middle of the bridge over the Blackberry River at Beckley Furnace and look downstream, you can glimpse the remains of another dam — that dam stored water to power the blast for East Canaan #1 and East Canaan #3. Looking down from Lower Road, you can see the remains of a canal that carried the water from that dam to a waterwheel that powered the lower furnaces. You can also see the foundations of buildings that were once there. One, we know, was a blacksmith shop. Another likely held the waterwheel for the lower furnaces.
Finally, if you look next to Lower Road, on the right hand side going west, you’ll see an outstanding example of a salamander. When demand warrants, we hold Blackberry River Walks, which point many of these features out in person. (We’ll have a post about the Blackberry River walks coming soon.)
If it’s really a park, there must be things to do! And how much does it cost?
Well, we think that learning about the historic iron industry is a lot to do, but there’s plenty beside that! This post shows some of the features at Beckley Furnace (and also what NOT to expect to find). Something else you will not find: an admission charge. Use of all of the facilities at Beckley Furnace is absolutely free.
Got more questions? Let us know!!