Mar 1, 2012
09:20 AMDiscover Connecticut
Connecticut From A to Woodstock: Beacon Falls
When I think of Beacon Falls, I think of when I used pass through the town during my trek up to Boy Scout Camp in Winsted during the 1980s. Back then, Route 8 through town was a narrow, twisty two-lane highway that wound its way high above the Naugatuck River. Fortunately, it's been been completely renovated and is actually now an enjoyable driving experience as opposed to the white-knuckler it could be, especially in inclement weather.
Beacon Falls is also a place where my wife and I considered buying a home back in the late 1990s because of the then-low real estate prices. Apparently, we were on the right track as it is one of those places in the state that has seen better than 10 percent population growth in the last decade.
Where is it? Beacon Falls is nestled in the heart of the Naugatuck Valley, about 14 miles northwest of New Haven and about 9 miles due south of Waterbury.
What's it like? With a population just over 6,000 and at 9.8 square miles, Beacon Falls is one of the smaller Valley municipalities. The majority of town is small, private single-family residences, although there are a few commercial and retail enterprises, primarily clustered along Main Street. Much of the western part of town is forested, while outside of the Route 8 corridor, it's also very hilly. And although there the town's name is "Beacon Falls," there is no actual Beacon Falls to visit, although there is a Spruce Brook Falls in the Naugatuck State Forest, which is on the northwestern edge of the town.
Brief history Beacon Falls is one of the "younger" towns in the state, not officially incorporated until May 1871. Carved out of the four surrounding towns—Oxford, Bethany, Naugatuck and Seymour—Native Americans were here for centuries before it was settled by colonists of Derby starting in 1678. According to the town's website, Beacon Hill was an outlook used by early settlers, and there was a small waterfall that flowed from it; the town's name was taken from this. For a more detailed history, visit the Beacon Falls Historical Society's website.
Hungry? Like many small towns, there isn't an abundance of places to eat, but The Original Antonio's is a popular spot, offering a full range of Italian cuisine, from thin-crust pizza to veal cacciatorre.
Bridge the gap In April 2011, renovations were finished on the Depot Street Bridge, a historic steel truss spanning the Naugatuck River that was originally constructed in 1934 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
Strike it rich? According to Highways and Byways of Connecticut, some of the first friction matches, created with sulfur, were made here in 1847 by local resident Thomas Sanford. Realizing that he had a "hot" product, Sanford quickly packed his matches in small barrels, which he would then sell for 10 cents apiece. Wanting to try and capitalize, he moved production to Woodbridge, where he constructed a large wheel to power his new mill.
Unfortunately, Sanford had miscalculated, and the mill wheel was too big to be turned by the brook he had built the factory near, so there was no power to make matches. Desperate to recoup anything from his failed efforts, Sanford sold his match formula for a mere $10. It soon found its way into the hands of the Diamond Match Company, which was able to capitalize.
Diamond is still making matches today (though not in Beacon Falls), while poor Thomas Sanford went down in flames.