Some people like history. Others don’t. I do, and I particularly like to know about the area in which I live. So when I picked up the new book Radford, I had difficulty putting it down.
To fully understand the qualities of this book, you need to know exactly what you’re getting. Radford is not a narrative. It doesn’t offer antagonists and protagonists or foreshadowing or any of a myriad of other literary techniques. Radford is essentially a photo essay, the latest in Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series.
The goal of that series is to celebrate the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. And Radford celebrates the heritage of this town that began in an area once known as Lovely Mount and later called Central Depot because it was in the middle of the rail road line between Lynchburg and Bristol. The city of Radford was incorporated in 1892, more than 100 years after the area was first settled. And the area had a lot of history prior to that. A Native American settlement was discovered in 1974 in the area that is now Bisset Park. It is estimated that the settlement dated back to the early 1600s.
In telling the story of Radford, the book offers a few frustrations. Some of the photos offer no information as to whether the building featured still stands or, if it does, where it might be located or what might be housed there now. And some of the information is not completely up-to-date. For instance, in the photo of Russell Hall on the Radford University campus, it mentions a renovation in 1987 but doesn’t mention the renovation completed this year.
But I was happy to learn a lot of things about the town I now call home. For instance, I had heard that Radford had a thriving department store for many years, so it was interesting to see the old Leggett’s store in photos. I’ve driven past the Radford City Schools administrative building on Wadsworth many times without knowing it was once an African American elementary school. My real estate agent had mentioned that the corner of Eighth and Wadsworth was once the entrance to an old fairground but it is amazing to see the photos of the Radford Racetrack and Fairgrounds and to think that horse racing was once common just down the street from my home.
And it was with great interest that I viewed the industry and businesses that came to Radford and were gone long before my arrival in the area: Radford-Portsmouth Veneer Company, Radford Weaving Company, Radford Knitting Mills, Clover Creamery, Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, Old Colony Box Company, The Hotel Shere, Farmers and Merchants Bank, New Racket Store, and many others.
The book is divided into Early History; The Railroad; Industry; Business; Education; Buildings; Churches, and Homes; People; Town and Country, each with a handful of photos giving you a glimpse of Radford’s heritage. Most photos were taken from the late 1890s up through the 1970s, offering an array of architectural styles and fashions.
As it says in the introduction, this book induces memories of longtime inhabitants while also introducing new residents to the city’s proud legacy. If you love history, you will surely enjoy this book.