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About Us

History of Richfield

The story of what is now Richfield Retirement Community is unique and inspiring. Richfield is not owned or affiliated with any entity. Our history tells the story of an institution that was built by ingenuity, dedicated individuals and organizations from the community, and the concerted efforts of two professional nurses – Jane Morgan Harris and Cary Holladay. The following written account was taken from early records.

“One bitter cold night in the winter of 1934, Mrs. Jane Morgan Harris, Roanoke County Public Health Nurse, was called out for a maternity case on Salem-Carvin’s Creek Road in Roanoke County. Accompanied by Dr. William C. Stephenson, she located a father, mother and seven children in a one-room abandoned filling station. The delivery was made using the doctor’s automobile headlights. Appalled at the care – or lack of care – which was provided for indigent, obstetrical patients, Mrs. Harris appealed to the County Board of Supervisors for the use of an old house on the County Farm west of Salem. With the assistance of a few helpers armed with scrub brushes and paint, they made the place habitable. A Roanoke Hospital donated two discarded beds and Mrs. Harris devised bedside tables from orange crates, and stoves from oil drums. She admitted her first patients for a fee of $5 for two weeks of care. If the patients did not have the money, they brought in farm produce in exchange for their care. The Virginia Emergency Relief Association employed a graduate nurse for the first two years of operations as accommodations were gradually expanded.”

“When the Roanoke Public Health Association was founded in 1937, the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors voted to turn the entire project over to the Association to be run as a nursing home and be known as Mercy House. Roanoke County maintained the buildings and paid the insurance, as well as the salaries of four men who operated the 280-acre farm under the direction of the county agricultural agent. The farm supplied fruits and vegetables for meals, and all surplus vegetables were canned. Pigs and chickens were raised for meat and a small dairy herd was maintained to supply milk. Any excess food or milk was sold. “

“In 1939, Cary Breckenridge Holladay was selected as the superintendent for Mercy House. She reportedly was the ‘possessor of an inexhaustible fund of common sense and had a prodigious capacity for hard work.’ Mrs. Holladay’s staff was comprised of a secretary, a graduate technician, eight domestics, and about thirty practical nurses. Patients ranged in age from infants to octogenarians, with a wide range of physical disabilities. Social service clubs, organized by Mrs. Harris, were founded in each rural community and worked on behalf of Mercy House. Their members attended Mrs. Harris’ home-nursing classes and were responsible for finding and reporting needy cases within their communities. In the canning season, they formed committees to help can foods, which were processed by means of modern canning equipment housed in a remodeled woodshed. ‘One year over 20,000 quarts of food and 250 gallons of apple butter were preserved.’ Patient quarters were renovated and redecorated with funds raised by these clubs through cake sales, quilting bees, etc. Mrs. Holladay reportedly spent many evenings crocheting brightly colored afghans to sell – ‘Whenever she sells an afghan, she glories in the fact that now she can build a partition or cut a window for another private cubicle’. ”

In 1968, in honor of the work and contributions of Mr. and Mrs. S. H. McVitty, the decision was made to change the name from Mercy House to McVitty House. As the property expanded its services to offer various levels of care, the Board sought a new name which would reflect the whole community. A local historian advised that the property was situated on land that was once a part of the estate of a renowned local citizen and Revolutionary War General, Andrew Lewis. His estate was named Richfield; therefore, the decision was made to adopt the name Richfield Retirement Community.

Over the years many patients have found refuge and care at what is now known as Richfield Retirement Community. Richfield has grown from its humble beginnings into a place now recognized for excellence, both locally and statewide, as a leader in retirement living, assisted living and nursing care. It stands today as a tribute to those two Registered Nurses, Jane Morgan Harris and Cary Breckenridge Holladay whose skill and empathy worked together to bring health, courage and peace of mind to those in need.

A new nursing care center was built in 1971 in the location of the original farm house. An east wing addition opened in 1978. Also in 1978, a 70-bed ‘home for adults’ named The Oaks opened in the some of the original nursing home ‘cottages’ which were left standing and were located behind the new nursing center.

In 1980, Ridgecrest, the first of our senior rental housing units opened.
Also in 1980, the Jane Morgan Harris Chapel was built with contributions from the public. The Chapel was dedicated, and appropriately named to honor our founder, Jane Morgan Harris. Today it serves as the center for religious activities on our campus.

In 1981, Knollwood Apartments opened its doors offering 81 apartments ranging from studio to two bedroom floor plans.

In 1981, the former Fort Lewis Fire Department building was purchased and remodeled to house a medical clinic and a retail pharmacy. Both of these entities were replaced in 2003 when the H. E. Bowling Professional Center opened. The Professional Center currently houses a medical clinic, retail pharmacy, outpatient therapy clinic, home health care company and an institutional pharmacy provider.

In 1988, the first of our Lake Estates were built. Currently there are 14 cottages, which are situated around the upper lake on our campus.

In 1990, the 82 bed T. Stuart Payne Center for Assisted Living opened. This facility replaced the original home for adults, which was razed in 1990. It was named in honor of T. Stuart Payne who served as General Manager of Richfield from 1964-1981.

In November of 1993, The Oaks opened providing additional assisted living opportunities on our campus. The Oaks, licensed for 90 beds, was dedicated in honor of John B. Cocke, Jr., who served on the Board of Directors for 28 years.

With an ongoing need for assisted living space, the Joseph C. Thomas Center opened in June of 1998. This facility was named in honor of the current Chairman of the Board for Richfield Retirement Community. This facility is currently licensed for 96 beds.

In the fall of 2003 the T. Stuart Payne Center was renovated to address the specific needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other related memory impairments. The name was changed to Richfield Memory Care & Enrichment Center to more accurately reflect the facility’s purpose. Despite the change in name, this facility continues to be dedicated to the memory of T. Stuart Payne for his contributions to the growth of Richfield.

Thank you for your interest in Richfield and for the opportunity to share information with you about our community.