Beckley Furnace video from 1999

Thanks to our friends at the Canaan/Falls Village Historical Society for coming up with this YouTube video that originally appeared on Connecticut Public TV.

Shot in the 1990s, it features faces that are familiar to those associated with Beckley Furnace over the years.  The faces (and voices) of Ron Jones, Ed Kirby, the late Fred Hall, and the late Fred Warner, are notable.  The furnace itself appears in the starring role, which is perfectly reasonable!   After all these years, and despite some initial flickering in the video, even if you actually watched it on CPTV, it’s well worth viewing again.

Click HERE to see it on YouTube.

A few things to watch for, besides the four men mentioned earlier:  There are several views of the furnace with scaffolding around it during the restoration process.  Note the masons at work on on the furnace.  In the early years after restoration we had a chain link fence around the furnace, which made it a lot less photogenic — and you can see that fence in place in these views.  The account of why the Bessemer process of steel making was established in Pennsylvania instead of Northwest Connecticut is particularly poignant.

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.


First school visit of the year!

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

SCS grade 3 2016
One of the groups viewing the photos this morning….

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.

If you happen to see this and wonder if your school group (or other group) might enjoy a visit to Beckley Furnace, please let us know!  More information about visits for school groups is here.

Slag at Beckley Furnace

Here’s some information about slag at Beckley Furnace.

People generally know about pig iron.  They know what it is, and what it looks like.  Most visitors to Beckley Furnace have seen the signs about how the furnace worked, and how it turned iron ore, charcoal, and limestone into pig iron.  You may even have heard one of our hosts describe the process for you if you’ve visited when one was on duty.

However, fewer people know about slag.  If you’ve ever wondered where the stuff that’s left over from the iron ore and limestone goes after the iron is made and what happens to it, then you’re asking the right question — and slag is the answer.

In this video, Christian Allyn visits the slag pile (and it is a big one!) at Beckley Furnace and shows you what you would find there if you visited yourself.  And he tells you quite a bit about the stuff as well.

Just CLICK HERE to enjoy the video!

Thanks to Christian Allyn, our knowledgeable and personable presenter.  Thanks to Eleanore Jenks who directed the video and who did the video capture as well.  Between the Lakes Group is responsible for post-processing, as they call it in the video trade.

This is slag! We’ve got a whole mountain of slag.



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.


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!!!


The Fire of 1896 at Beckley Furnace

The Fire of 1896

The fire of 1896 put Beckley Furnace out of commission for three full years.   Interestingly, this may also have been when the decision was made to raise the height of the furnace to 40 feet. We do know that Barnum and Richardson encountered many difficulties  in getting the furnace back in commission.

Friend of Beckley Furnace Richard Paddock has studied the Fire of 1896 in considerable depth.  In addition to more readily available sources, he searched the local newspapers of the time for events occurring  during the period the furnace was out of commission.  You can read his complete report by clicking on The Fire of 1896

Thanks to Dick for this study!  We will be following it with additional studies that are intended for those who are interested in Beckley Furnace, the Barnum and Richardson Company, and the iron industry in the Upper Housatonic Valley at a level that goes beyond the casual.

Iron around the World

You and other people might think that the iron industry was only in the United States. But, it had to of come from somewhere right?

Where else was the iron industry?

-An iron blade was found in an Egyptian pyramid.

-By 5 B.C. there were small blast furnaces in China

-In Germany blast furnaces date to the 14th century

-In Spain forges date to the 8th century

-The Cranberry Bogs in Massachusetts was where they dug up bog Iron.

-The iron furnace in Kent, CT gave its’ name to the Kent Furnace in Kent, Ct.

-Sheffeild, England was where they invented crucible steel.

See? The iron industry most likely came here from Europe and Asia which was where it started.

This is America, not Europe!

The most likely reason as to why the iron industry started here was that the people that came to America from Europe brought with them ideas. One of these ideas probably was to start iron furnaces in the original colonies. If you’ve seen our ABOUT page, you’ll remember that John Adam Beckley originally set up the many Beckley Furnaces. Other people may have been inspired by him, or had already had other furnaces/forges which is how there were so many then and how there are still some around today.

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 not-for-profit organization that restored, maintains, and interprets Beckley Furnace, paid attention.  The interests of the girls and the interest of the Friends coincided perfectly; for years the Friends of Beckley Furnace have 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).  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!

About this project
One of the website designers