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!