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.


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!!!


Making the Welcome video

Here’s how the Welcome video was made…

The Girl Scouts who redid this website for their Silver Awards felt strongly that every website deserves a welcome video — so they made one for us!  (You can find and watch it on the Welcome page).  Eleanore took the lead on this part of the project since she has an interest in videography and had made several videos already.

Shooting video
Here’s Eleanore, the Girl Scout who was in charge of the Welcome video

The first step was planning — including a site visit to shoot some trial footage.  First problem:  the roar of the waterfall made the possibility of live audio to accompany the video a doubtful proposition.  Solution:  a two-part one — first, a musical soundtrack, and second, voiceover narration.

Where to get a musical background?  Well, there is lots of “music by the yard” available for purchase, so the girls had that option.  However, Eleanore listened to some of it, decided that there was no reason to buy it when she could make it herself, so she did.  The piano accompaniment for the video is 100% Eleanore’s work.

Filming the members

Helen captures Eleanore capturing some of the Friends of Beckley Furnace talking


Helen, the other Girl Scout, wasn’t idle on this phase.  It’s often useful to have some still photos to intersperse with the video segments, and Helen was in charge of capturing the necessary stills — as well as finding herself the subject of a bit of continuity that appears in the finished video.  Below you see her from a “frame grab” in the finished video (she was using the still camera, so to get a photo of her we had to grab a frame from the video).  She was also pretty much everywhere making sure people were where they were supposed to be for the camera.

Helen frame grab
Helen, the still photographer, also provided continuity

We mentioned earlier that we needed to dub audio tracks.  Well, the musical part was already taken care of, but there was still the voice-over to record.  After some discussion, the girls decided that Eleanore could do this part too.  They worked on the script, and finally it was time for Eleanore to face the microphone and record it.

Voiceover recording
Eleanore recording the voice-over for the Welcome video

Now all the pieces were ready.  The raw video itself was in the can, as they say.  The music was composed and recorded.  The stills to be interspersed in the video were ready to be used.  The voice-over track to match with the video track had been recorded and the best parts selected.

If you’ve ever had any contact with videography, movie-making, or even home movies to show to friends, you know that the hardest work is not holding the camera, or being in front of it.  The hardest part, and the most time-consuming part, is the part spent in what the video pros call “post” — which stands for post-production, which is basically editing the video and making it into a coherent movie.

It tends to be pretty solitary work, except for periodically showing problematic parts around and asking for ideas.  But post was ultimately Eleanore’s responsibility to do.

Welcome video post-processing
Eleanore, seen hard at work in post-processing of the Welcome video

You can see the finished product on our Hello page, and we hope you will take a look at it and recognize all the parts that make it up and appreciate the effort that the girls put into it.

The girls would like to extend special thanks to the adults who appeared in the video and who supported its production, particularly Christian Allyn and Dick Paddock.