The Warm Springs Pools

October 2nd Award Ceremony Lecture
Click here for the slides from Gibson Worsham’s lecture “The Warm Springs Baths—Their History and Preservation.”

The Pools, titled as “Warm Springs Bathhouses”, are listed on both the Virginia Landmarks Register (1968) and The National Register of Historic Places (1969). This is the Statement of Significance in the 1969 nomination:

The Warm Springs traditionally served as the starting point for the annual tours of the Virginia springs, a social custom observed by the aristocrats from all over the South escaping the intense summer heat of the lowlands to relax at the mountain pools and enjoy the company of their peers. While the springs first became known for their curative powers and continued to be visited by invalids searching for health, the real popularity of the springs was founded upon their serving as fashionable resorts.
The springs were apparently popular during the last third of the eighteenth century when the men’s bath house was built, and they flourished during the first half of the nineteenth century as the tide of settlement pushed the Indians further west.
Both of the bath houses are in an excellent state of repair and have undergone very little alteration. Still used for their original purpose and maintained by the Homestead Hotel, a world famous resort, the Warm Springs Bath Houses are “excellent examples of the simplicity in public accommodations” in early Virginia and testify to a bygone era of our social history.

Sadly, the Bath Houses are now listed among Preservation Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Sites. This designation is intended in part “to encourage citizens and organizations to continue to advocate” for a site’s protection and preservation.

In the September/October, 2011 issue of PRESERVATION, The Magazine of The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the “Jefferson Pools” are considered to be Threatened.

In 2016, Omni Hotels and Resorts (owners of  the Pools as part of The Homestead property) announced that work would begin on a restoration project.  As a first step, an architectural historian was hired to prepare a Historic Structures Report.  On October 2 2016, Gibson Worsham presented our 2nd Annual Preservation Lecture and he previewed parts of the Report.  We have provided a link to a copy of his presentation at the top of this page.

Here are some of the highlights from Gibson’s lecture.

  • The octagon-shaped pool was created circa 1773.  It was probably originally surrounded by shrubbery to provide some privacy for bathers.
  • That pool, called the “Great Bath,” was used by men and women, alternating times during the day.
  • The covered structure (now called the Men’s Bath House) was built in the late 1820’s.
  • In the mid-1800’s, there was a separate small “ladies” bathing house.  It was replaced by the current Women’s Bath House in 1875.
  • Both bath houses were built to provide for entrance to separate dressing rooms from the exterior of the buildings.
  • The reception building (Victorian Cottage) was built in 1890.

In Fall 2017, citing safety concerns, Bath County directed The Homestead to stop operations at the Pools and close the buildings.  We continue to work with the owners of The Homestead to complete a proper restoration of the Bath Houses and the Victorian Cottage.  We ask you to help us. Please show your support by contacting us.  We will be happy to keep you informed about our progress.