Members of the Powhatan, Shawnee, and Cherokee Indian tribes were the earliest inhabitants of the New River Valley. In 1654, the first exploration of the valley was recorded by Col. Abram Woods. The river running through the valley was named Wood River and renamed the New River in the 1700s.
In the 1740´s, German settlers established the first permanent settlements at Dunkard´s Bottom (now under Claytor Lake, near Claytor Lake State Park) and Draper´s Meadow in Blacksburg. The arrival of the English and Scots-Irish settlers brought about a series of Indian wars, which included the Draper´s Meadow Massacre in 1755. During this massacre a young pioneer woman Mary Draper Ingles was taken into Shawnee captivity. She later escaped in Ohio and her courageous journey home was told for many years in Radford´s outdoor drama, "The Long Way Home."
At the New River crossing of the Wilderness Road (present day Rock Road in Radford), William Ingles and his wife Mary established Ingles Ferry in 1762. In 1776 John Heavin built Lovely Mount Tavern with a stable, general store, blacksmith shop and tavern. In 1836 a post office was established.
In the mid -1800´s, the railroad came to the area and Central Depot was founded with railroad shops, roundhouse, homes for the crews, tavern, restaurant and general store. Today, the old Central Depot building has been renovated into apartments on West Main Street. The words Central Depot are still visible and the railroad tracks behind it are still in use.
In 1865, Union Forces defeated Confederate forces during the battles of Newbern and Cloyd´s Mountain, destroyed the railroad, and did massive amounts of damage throughout the New River Valley. The Railway lines were re-built during the Reconstruction Era. Much of the battle in Radford took place across the river between Radford and present day Fairlawn. The bridge abutments just upstream of Memorial bridge still bear the scars of minnie balls. Bullets and cannon balls were found for many years on the slopes of Radford facing Fairlawn.
Civil War General Gabriel Wharton´s home Glencoe, has been renovated and is open for tours Tuesday through Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM, and Sunday 1 PM to 4 PM. Also on the museum site is a restored one-room school from days gone by.
On May 23, 1887, the community changed its name from Central to Radford in honor of Dr. John Blair Radford a prominent physician in the area. On January 22, 1892 the Virginia General Assembly granted the town of Radford independent status whereupon it became the City of Radford.
By 1900, the City of Radford had become a strong center of commerce with Radford Pipe Foundry our major employer and several hotels opened to accommodate visitors and businessmen. A trolley system connected East Radford and West Radford. The Radford Electric Light and Power Company along with a privately operated water works began providing general utilities to the community. Two newspapers, the Radford Advance and the Radford Enterprise opened.
Radford University opened in 1913 as a state teachers college and today offers a liberal education to approximately 9,000 student annually.
The Government structure changed from the Mayor Alderman format to the Council Management format in 1920.
By 1928, a high school was built and Lee Highway (US 11) was completed. In 1930, the community population was 6,227.
The 1940s saw development of citywide parks. The Kiwanis Club established a public recreation program and built a swimming pool along Connelly´s Run (near the present day outdoor classroom at the center of Wildwood Park.)
World War II drastically changed Radford with the opening of the Radford Arsenal. Residential construction boomed, and the Tyler Hotel, Radford Community Hospital, and the Radford Chamber of Commerce were founded. In 1943, the water filtration plant was built and a recreation building was completed for the growing community.
By 1970 the population was 11,596 and it is now over 16,000.
Today the City of Radford is rich in opportunity, energy, and beauty. It is ideally located along Interstate I-81 with easy access to I-77.
Three state of the art hospitals serve the New River Valley: Carilion New River Valley Medical Center (only 3 miles outside of Radford), Pulaski Community Hospital and Montgomery Regional Hospital.
The Radford Public Library with 18,000 square feet, has over 80,000 volumes and circulates in excess of 150,000 annually. City residents can also use the excellent library facilities at Radford University, Virginia Tech and New River community college (combined collections of over one million volumes.)
The City of Radford has approximately 35 places of worship representing the major Protestant and Roman Catholic faiths, with a Jewish Community Center nearby in Blacksburg, and a synagogue in Roanoke.
Radford´s public schools were ranked in the 100 Best School Districts in the United States in the September-October, 2000 issue of Offspring Magazine. The city operates a dynamic, comprehensive education program for students from kindergarten to twelfth grade.
Two elementary schools consisting of a primary and an upper elementary school, provide a sound program for students. Radford´s intermediate and high schools, are accredited by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges, and serve the needs of students in grades 7-12. The Radford City School system, has a reputation for excellence. Students consistently score above the state average on all tests.
The Radford, Blacksburg, Christiansburg Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) ranks 8th out of 400 best emerging areas to live in the U.S. The book, "Cities Ranked & Rated" John Wiley & Sons, March 2004, provides unbiased information and facts ranking each MSA on a number of essential factors. Categories include: economy, jobs, cost of living, climate, education, health care, crime, transportation, leisure, and arts and culture.
With the beautiful campus of Radford University in the midst of our city and Virginia Tech and New River Community College nearby, residents enjoy a profusion of education and cultural resources.
As Radford´s largest employer, Radford University, prepares students for careers in business administration, accounting, nursing, communication, art, education and many other fields. Just 20 minutes away, the states largest university, Virginia Tech offers programs in engineering, architecture, agriculture, physics, business, and other graduate and undergraduate programs. New River Community College in Dublin provides training programs for businesses and industry, as well as associate degrees in technical and general education.
Radford offers diverse shopping experiences with a variety of clothing, furniture, and antique shops in downtown. There are also numerous shopping centers in nearby Christiansburg.
Sports can be enjoyed at facilities throughout Radford. Picnicking, hiking and tennis can be enjoyed at Radfords 14 parks. The Department of Parks and Recreation directs programs throughout the year at our new state of the art Recreation Center. From the center of city one can hike or bike through 50 acres of Wildwood Park, and to and from several neighborhoods. Radford officially opened its multi- million dollar Riverway in 2004. It offers walking and biking along the New River and through Wildwood Park. Eventually the Pathway will connect all of the city´s parks and stretch the entire length of Radford.
Those interested in mountain biking, and hiking in a more rugged environment can obtain a permit from the city for a shared use area that is also open to residents with permits for hunting during the fall and winter months.
Radford University offers a variety of spectator sports. Varsity basketball, soccer, gymnastics, baseball and tennis can be enjoyed at the Dedmon Center, Radford University´s 8 acre recreation and convocation facility. Close by, Virginia Tech offers the best in college football, as well as other collegiate sports. Arena football, ice hockey, baseball and more are available in Roanoke.
Spectacular scenery and additional recreation opportunities are only a short drive away to National Forests in surrounding counties. Hiking, mountain biking, camping, trout fishing, horseback riding, picnicking, hunting are just a few of the many activities available. Scenic drives, sightseeing, and more outdoor oriented recreational activities are only an hour away on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Nearby Claytor Lake offers a diversity of water sports. In Radford, the New River offers many recreational opportunities as well, walking along the miles of paths on its banks in the city, fishing for many species, including world class smallmouth bass and muskie. Canoeing, kayaking, and tubing opportunities abound.
Radford is in proximity to nine golf courses. Radford University, Virginia Tech, and nearby Roanoke offer theater, ballet, and the symphony.
Radford, Virginia ~ The New River City
A Great Place to Live, Learn, Work and Play
Portions reprinted with permission of Radford Chamber of Commerce. No portions of this document or webpage may be reproduced without written permission.
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