Beckley Furnace, Connecticut’s only designated Industrial Monument, is the centerpiece of the Upper Housatonic Valley’s Iron Heritage Trail.
Beckley Furnace was built in 1847 by John Adam Beckley, great-grandson of Esquire Samuel Forbes and grandson of John Adam, Jr., the founders of the Forbes & Adam Iron Company. It was acquired by the Barnum & Richardson Company in 1858.
Beckley Furnace (also known as “East Canaan #2” during the Barnum and Richardson years) produced pig iron until the winter of 1918-19.
Constructed of locally quarried marble, the furnace was originally thirty-two feet in height and thirty feet square at the base. Later, after it was acquired by the Barnum Richardson Company, the height was raised to forty feet making it one of the largest of forty-three blast furnaces in the Salisbury Iron District.
In the winter of 1919, with World War I over, the Beckley Furnace was finally closed. However, nearby East Canaan #3 (the so-called “Furnace in a Field”) did not go out of blast until 1923. A fourth blast furnace, East Canaan #4, was still under construction at the time, was never in blast, and no trace remains of it today.
After the closing of the Beckley Furnace, the buildings and stack slowly deteriorated. During World War II the site was extensively scavenged for scrap metal for the war effort, and even for bricks.
Then, in 1946, Civil Engineer Charles Rufus Harte recognized the historic importance of Beckley Furnace, and developed a plan for state purchase and preservation of Beckley. In the process the Beckley Furnace was designated as Connecticut’s sole official state Industrial Monument and in 1978 Beckley was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
During the fifty years following the State’s purchase of the historic Beckley property, little had been done to maintain the furnace. With no roof, rain and snow seeped into the furnace. Continuous freezing and thawing during this period gradually resulted in the formation of structural bulges on all four sides of the stack.
Then, in 1996, with enthusiastic support from local legislators, a group of area citizens succeeded in obtaining $250,000 from the State Bonding Commission. As a result an archaeological assessment was prepared and the Beckley Furnace was preserved. Today, that group of area citizens group has evolved into the Friends of Beckley Furnace.