Frequently asked questions

We LOVE it when people ask us questions about Beckley Furnace! Those of us who serve as tour guides at Beckley on summer Saturdays, and those of us who conduct tours for visiting groups, have collected some of the most frequently asked questions that we hear and provided some answers.  Here are some of them — and the list keeps growing!

By the way, there’s no such thing as a stupid question!!  


What is this place?

The single most asked question!

Many people who visit us at Beckley weren’t aware that this was once a blast furnace,  used for making pig iron for many years.  Most are unaware that Beckley is Connecticut’s sole Industrial Monument. Beckley Furnace itself was in operation between 1846 and 1919.

A Blast Furnace in Northwest CT?  Really?

Yes, there was once a thriving iron industry in the Upper Housatonic Valley, one of regional and national importance, beginning with the discovery of iron ore on a site just west of Lakeville around 1700, and ending around 1925, with the demise of successor corporations to the Barnum & Richardson Company and the ending of production in the Lime Rock foundries.  Here in the Upper Housatonic Valley were made cannons for the soldiers in the American Revolution, anchors for sailing ships, and railroad car wheels for the burgeoning railroads of the nineteenth century.

On this site we’ll tell you a little both about Beckley Furnace and about the iron industry of which it was a part.  Check back frequently to find new links to material about Beckley and the iron industry and about life in this area when iron ruled.

What are the white stones?

You’re probably referring to the lines of white stones on the ground, in front of the furnace, right?  Were they there in the old days?  If you’ve visited Beckley Furnace or have seen pictures, you may well wonder just what the white stones are for.   Well, they were NOT there when the furnace was operating.  They were put there to mark the outline of the original building (called the casting shed) that the furnace was in. So the furnace was actually inside a building!  Cool, right? Additionally, did you know that there used to be a bridge from the top of the furnace, across the road, to the high stone wall there?  That bridge was used to take the iron ore, the charcoal, and the limestone to the top of the furnace to dump it in.  Want to know more about the casting shed?  Read the post called “What and Where was the Casting Shed“.

 What was the role of women and girls in the iron industry?

That’s a great question, and one we often — almost always, in fact — hear from school groups.  The answer, unfortunately, isn’t an easy one.  We’ll have a series of posts on that topic — because the roles of women varied significantly depending on where in the iron industry they were. Check our recent posts, and also do a search on “women” or “girls” and we think you’ll find what you’re looking for. But here’s the first post on that subject!.

What is a blast furnace anyway, and why do they call it a blast furnace?

We suspect that you’ll find our post about making  iron at Beckley Furnace will answer that question for you.

Barnum and Richardson owned this place.  Any connection with P. T. Barnum?

You’ll find an answer to this on in our Iron History Questions section!

More questions!

We’re making a list of more frequently asked questions, and we’ll keep the list going here until someone writes a response — and then we’ll provide a link to it.  Here goes:

–Why do they call it pig iron?

–Where do they make iron today?

–How come they needed a dam?  Wasn’t the water in the Blackberry River enough?

–Where did the water go after it went through the turbines?

–What is a blowing tub?

–Why did they need a stove?  Wasn’t the furnace hot enough?

–What’s the difference between a salamander and a furnace bear?  We’ve got a whole post about this one, with pictures!

–How did the air get from the blowing tubs to the furnace?

–How did they get the slag over to the slag piles?

–What was slag used for?

–Where did they get the charcoal for the blast furnace?

–Why did they also have a sawmill here?

–What was the second turbine for?  That’s the Loeffel turbine.  We’ve got a post about that!

–It says that when they rebuilt after the 1896 fire they made the furnace taller.  Why would they do that?