Neutra's only known work in Virginia was commissioned by U.S. Ambassador (to Australia under the Nixon administration) and Mrs. Walter L. Rice. The house was a bold statement built within a stone's throw of the epitome of Colonial Revival suburbs, Windsor Farms. Neutra, an expatriate from Vienna, left the Berlin office of architect Erich Mendelsohn in 1924 and came to the United States, where he worked briefly with Frank Lloyd Wright and R. M. Schindler. He settled in Los Angeles and became one of the major exponents of the International Style in the 1920s and 1930s. The Rice House, built late in his career, echoes Wright's long horizontals. The island site is one of the most inspiring natural settings on the James River. According to Inger Rice, “Neutra fell in love with the site and even wanted to climb out on a cliff to look at the site. We tied a rope around him.”
The views of the river are spectacular from the floor-to-ceiling windows as well as a secondstory deck that surrounds nearly half the house. The materials include Georgia marble (installed by three Georgians) and superbly fitted masonry throughout the overall light-colored form. The house also uses aluminum, which is appropriate for a Reynolds Metals vice president. The house has recently been given to the Science Museum of Virginia. The seventeen-acre island was once called Dead Man's Hill because two Civil War soldiers were buried there. The property also contains a mid-nineteenth-century Kanawha Canal lock and the remnants of a shot tower that was part of the Westham Foundry.