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Arnheim History

High above the New River stands Arnheim, “the eagle’s nest”, and home of Dr. John Blair Radford, the namesake of the City of Radford, Virginia. The Radford Heritage Foundation plans to restore this antebellum plantation house, so closely associated with the history of the area. Read more about the history of the building and our restoration plans.

A Brief History of Arnheim

Arnheim was built in 1838-40 for Dr. John Blair Radford (1813-72) and his wife Elizabeth Campbell Taylor Radford (d. ca. 1887) on land then owned by Mrs. Radford’s father, John M. Taylor (later deeded to the couple as a present). Radford, a native of Bedford County, received a medical education at the University of Pennsylvania in the mid-1830s and afterward served as the Radford area’s principal physician. In addition to his medical profession, Radford derived income from his farm and from business activity that included ownership of the Lovely Mount Tavern and a role in the development of the railroad community of Central Depot, which grew into the city of Radford and was renamed in honor of the doctor.

Arnheim means “home of the eagle” in German and is a reference to the property’s lofty site overlooking the New River, perhaps a borrowing from Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Domain of Arnheim”, published in the Colombian Magazine in 1847, which describes an idyllic retreat. The substantial two-story brick house is said to have been modeled on a home Radford admired in Philadelphia. The house combines Greek Revival elements such as columned porches (now gone) and decorative interior treatments such as Federal three-part mantels and cooed plaster cornices. The farm boasted a full complement of domestic and agricultural outbuildings, including slave houses and a pre-existing overseer’s house, where Dr. and Mrs. Radford lived while Arnheim was being built.

Dr. Radford died in 1872 just as he and his son-in-law Gabriel Wharton (original owner of another distinguished Radford mansion, Glencoe) and others had begun to organize the New River Railroad, Mining and Manufacturing Company, which contributed to the development of the Virginia/West Virginia coal fields. Arnheim remained in the Radford and intermarried Adams families until 1931, when it was sold to the city of Radford. In the 1890s, the house gained an ornate Victorian porch on its north elevation and a row of outbuildings to the east of the house. These included a story-and-a-half detached kitchen, which may have been built at the same time as the main house or as a late nineteenth-century replacement of an earlier building. The city converted the house into a home economics annex for the adjacent Radford High School, adding side wings and a south porch and north entry in the Colonial Revival style. Arnheim was most recently used for storage of school-related items.