Beckley Furnace

140 Lower Road • East Canaan, CT • Litchfield County

Historical Significance

A rich vein of high-quality iron ore runs through the northwest corner of Connecticut and miners began to exploit it in the early eighteenth century. The era of large scale industrial production of iron began in 1825 when Holley & Coffing built a blast furnace in Lime Rock. By 1830, the first foundry for casting the raw pig iron into finished products was opened and the need for workers began to increase. Irish immigrants had already begun to migrate to northwest Connecticut in the 1830s and 1840s for railroad construction jobs and they started working in the iron industry at about the same time.

Photo: The Beckly Furnace.

The Barnum-Richardson Company became well known in the 1840s for their high quality iron wheels for railroad cars. The firm expanded rapidly in Lime Rock, Canaan and the surrounding area during his period. Most of their new workers were Irish and by the 1870s, this firm alone employed 1,600 of them. It was said that about eighty percent of the the men working in the mines and foundries were Irish.

The Beckley Furnace is the last reminder of this once-vibrant industry. It 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. The Barnum Richardson Company, raised its height to forty feet, making it one of the largest of the forty-three blast furnaces in the Salisbury Iron District. It continued to function until it went out of blast after World War I. It was designated as Connecticut's only Industrial Heritage Site in 1946 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It is currently the centerpiece of a state park.


Carley, Rachel. "Lakeville Manor." National Register nomination. 2014.

Clouette, Bruce. "Beckley Furnace." National Register nomination. 1977.

Plummer, Dale S. "Lime Rock Historic District." National Register nomination. 1983.

"Beckley Furnace." Friends of Beckly Furnace. 
[ view source ]


The remains of the Beckly Furnace, a nineteenth century blast furnace, is a remnant of a vast iron mining and forging industry in the East Canaan section of New Canaan. It is on the bank of the Blackberry River and it stands forty feet high. It is thirty feet square at the base and twenty feet square at the top. It is built of rough surfaced limestone in random ashlar and it has four pointed arch openings outlined by finished limestone blocks.

Additional Information

Date(s):  Built 1847, Updated 1896
Historic Use:  Iron Furnace
Present Use:  State Park
Builder:  Holley & Coffing

Exterior visible from public road.

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