“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
East Canaan in North Canaan in Litchfield County, Connecticut — The American Northeast (New England)

What Is This Place?

Beckley Furnace Industrial Monument

What Is This Place? Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Michael Herrick, April 15, 2011
1. What Is This Place? Marker
What Is This Place?
Beckley Furnace Industrial Monument
You are standing in front of the remains of an iron furnace. This facility, Beckley Furnace, operated from 1847 until 1919, making it one of the last of its kind to operate in the United States. Originally, this site consisted of several buildings which evolved over the life of the site. On this side of the furnace there was a large brick building with a curved metal roof called the casting shed. It was in this building that molten iron was removed from the furnace and cast into ingots called "pigs". The ingots got their name from the fact that the shape of the molds resembled piglets nursing on their mother. These ingots were then shipped to other industries, some nearby, some very far away to make iron goods of great variety. One particular use of the iron made here was railroad car wheels. Wheels made from the iron produced here were particularly resistant to cracking. Thousands of them carried goods all over the United States as well as other countries during the great industrial expansion of the second half of the nineteenth century.
On the far side of
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the building was a water turbine and associated machinery which was used to force air into the furnace to aid in the combustion of the charcoal used as fuel. Also on the far side of the furnace was an oven used to preheat the air sent to the furnace. Early ironmakers learned that hot air made the furnace more efficient so the oven was an important component of the overall site. The oven used waste gas from the furnace as fuel showing an early example of industrial recycling.
The ironmaking process resulted in by-products as well. This furnace produced a waste product called slag. This material is formed from other minerals present in iron ore, most notably silicon, and resembles glass. During the years of its operation this furnace produced an enormous amount of slag. The size of the slag heap across the river from the furnace was estimated at 900,000 cubic yards in 1920. Some of the slag was crushed and mixed with cement to make slag concrete. A number of buildings in New England were made with slag exported from this site. Slag was also used as a component in road surfacing, but it did not perform well in that application. Ultimately the slag was abandoned to the forest which has reclaimed the slag piles and made them all but invisible today.
Beckley Furnace has been designated an Industrial Monument by the State of Connecticut, the first site in the state to achieve
Detail Photo on the Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Michael Herrick, April 15, 2011
2. Detail Photo on the Marker
[ caption ]
This is what you would have seen looking from near this spot during the 1890's This photograph shows the furnace behind the round-roofed casting shed. You can see stacks of pig iron ingots stacked outside the door to the casting shed.
The bridge over the road was used to bring raw materials from storage areas on the hill to the top of the furnace, where they were dumped in the stack.
that status.
Please explore this remnant of northwestern Connecticut's industrial past. Interpretive signs have been placed near the significant remaining structures on the site to help you appreciate what once was here.
Furnaces such as this one were usually located on the side of a hill so that access to the top of the stack could be gained via a bridge from the hilltop.
The furnace is a stone tower with a central chimney consisting of three parts: the upper part, called the stack , the central portion called the "bosh"and a cylindrical chamber at the bottom called the crucible.
A charcoal fire was built inside and when it had reached the right temperature iron ore and limestone were added to the top of the stack.
To aid in the combustion of the charcoal, hot air was forced into the furnace under pressure. This hot air was fed into the furnace through nozzles called "tuyeres". This "hot blast" made the furnace more efficient. Hot carbon monoxide produced by the charcoal fire reduced the iron ore to pure iron which would drip to the bottom of the furnace and collect in the crucible.
When the crucible was full, the ironworkers would "tap" the furnace letting the liquid metal flow into sand molds where it would harden. Molten waste, a glasslike material called "slag" was also produced in the furnace.
Beckley Furnace image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Michael Herrick, April 15, 2011
3. Beckley Furnace
The marker is behind the brown railing. The casting shed occupied this area.
The slag was lighter than the molten iron and floated on top of it. It was drawn off separately and discarded.
Production was continuous: after tapping the furnace the fire was built up and another charge of ore and limestone prepared. Production could only be interrupted by severe drought which removed the power source for the air blast or a breakdown in the furnace. Furnaces of this type were used for the production of iron throughout the United States.
Erected 2002 by Friends of Beckley Furnace, Inc.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Industry & Commerce. In addition, it is included in the Appalachian Iron Furnaces series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1847.
Location. 42° 0.663′ N, 73° 17.557′ W. Marker is in North Canaan, Connecticut, in Litchfield County. It is in East Canaan. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Lower Road and Furnace Hill Road, on the left when traveling west. Located at Beckley Furnace Industrial Monument. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 140 Lower Rd, East Canaan CT 06024, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Casting Arch & Furnace Hearth (here, next to this marker); Salamander (a few steps from this marker); Birth of an Industry (a few steps
Information Kiosk image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Michael Herrick, April 15, 2011
4. Information Kiosk
Beckley Furnace
1847 – 1919
Department of Environmental Protection
Canaan - Falls Village Historical Society
from this marker); Tuyere Arch (a few steps from this marker); Samuel Forbes (approx. 0.4 miles away); East Canaan Veterans Monument (approx. half a mile away); North Canaan (approx. 2 miles away); Joseph Deferari (approx. 2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in North Canaan.
Regarding What Is This Place?. Beckley Furnace is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, February 14, 1978
Also see . . .  Friends of Beckley Furnace. (Submitted on April 25, 2011, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut.)
Credits. This page was last revised on July 30, 2023. It was originally submitted on April 25, 2011, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut. This page has been viewed 543 times since then and 47 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on April 25, 2011, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut.

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Nov. 28, 2023