We at Beckley Furnace traditionally provide Summer Saturday guides from Memorial Day weekend until Columbus Day weekend, and we’re doing it again this year. Here are the details:
WHEN: Saturdays beginning at 10 AM, ending at 2 PM. Guides generally leave promptly at 2 PM, so come a bit earlier if you think you’ll have questions.
WHERE: You’ll dependably find our guides in the area in front of the furnace. Depending on the day, you may also find a guide in the office building, but try the furnace area first.
WHO: Our guides are members of the board of directors of the Friends of Beckley Furnace, the not for profit organization that researches, restores, and interprets Beckley Furnace. All are knowledgeable; some are regionally and even nationally recognized as experts in the field.
WHAT: Basically, we’re here to help. Some people like to conduct self-guided tours, using the signage we’ve prepared. Others like to be shown around by a guide. Still others like to look around and then engage one or more of the guides in discussion of particular aspects of the furnace or the historic iron industry of the Upper Housatonic Valley. It’s your choice!
HOW MUCH does this cost? NOTHING. It’s free! No admission charge, no charge for the guide.
So, we hope you’ll come see us one Saturday this summer. You can find a map and driving directions HERE.
We’ll be the first to admit that February is the earliest we can remember having a first school visit of the year here at Beckley Furnace, but we did that today!
The third grade of Salisbury Central School joined us — despite temps in the 20s — for a bit over an hour of exploration of the furnace and environs as well as discussion of the process of making iron here at Beckley Furnace. On hand were four experienced leaders: Ed Kirby, Cliff Waldow, Dick Paddock, and Geoff Brown, and, as well as the teachers, the SCS contingent was accompanied by Lou Buccieri.
The kids split into two groups of around 15 each, and while one group learned about what goes into making
iron (ore, limestone, charcoal), and what comes out (pig iron and slag — more about slag later) and went to visit the new hydraulic turbine exhibit, the other group learned about the iron industry in the tri-state area and viewed real photos of iron workers, furnaces, and mines as they appeared in the old days, and then had a hands-on tour of the furnace itself. Then the two groups changed places and we repeated the program for them.
Sadly, the weather had left us with about an inch of snow on the slag pile — always a highlight of school visits (and, in fact, most visits) — that made looking for slag samples to take home something we were able to leave out, especially since the open face of the slag heap faces north. The teachers tell us that the kids will view the video about slag when they get back to school, and many of the kids told us that they planned to bring their parents and siblings back for a visit to Beckley when the weather is a little better.
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!