Take the Waters at the Renowned Warm Springs Pools
By Brian Weis
Bath County's historic Warm Springs Pools, are once again welcoming guests to "take the waters." The two bathhouses are a perfect après ski experience as they are fed by four natural warm springs, rich in mineral content, and ideal for relaxing after a day on the slopes. Owned and operated by The Omni Homestead Resort, the iconic structures reopened on December 17 after a $4 million investment into restoring and preserving them. The stone basin of the Gentlemen's Bathhouse was constructed in 1761, making it the oldest spa structure in the country.
Mark Spadoni, managing director of The Omni Homestead Resort, explained, "The therapeutic benefits of soaking in these natural springs are remarkable. Each of the 15 minerals has health benefits from soothing your skin to boosting your blood circulation and relieving pain and we are humbled to have this natural resource as part of The Homestead experience."
Taking the waters is a centuries-old tradition which drew travelers seeking geothermal mineral springs to this area. Upon recognizing their popularity, Captain Thomas Bullitt along with Andrew and Thomas Lewis, purchased land and built the first Homestead in 1766. Throughout their history, they have been a respite for guests from around the world, including several US Presidents from Thomas Jefferson to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Unaffected by changes of the seasons, the waters remain at a natural body temperature all year and flow at the astounding rate of 1,700,000 gallons per day.
The Gentlemen's Bathhouse, originally known as the Warm Springs Bath or the Great Bath, was covered by a new octagonal frame building in the mid-1820s. The 22-sided Ladies' Bathhouse was built in the mid-1870s. In the 1950s, the roof was rebuilt, and a support beam added to the center of the structure. As part of the project, the roof was reconstructed to match its design from the 1890s. The Reception House, with its fashionable Queen Anne-inspired exterior, was built around 1890 and served as a waiting room for the Ladies' Bathhouse. The bathhouses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Virginia Landmarks Register.
"It has been incredibly gratifying to these phenomenal structures restored to their former glory," added Spadoni. "The bathhouses are a fundamental component of Bath County, and it was vital we dedicate time and effort into their preservation. Maintaining the historic integrity of the bathhouses was paramount."
Throughout the process, Omni worked closely with 3North, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and Lionberger Construction to ensure the project adhered to The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The Warm Springs Pools project is considered a rehabilitation, as it acknowledges the need to alter or add to a historic property to meet continuing or changing uses while retaining the property's historic character.
The goal was to preserve as much historic building fabric as possible while ensuring that the buildings are prepared to serve many years of future use. The scope of work encompassed preserving and/or replacing in-kind the historic wood structure, windows, doors, siding and roofing along with repairing the foundation piers of both baths and the reception house. In preparing the plans, the team focused on maintaining the existing character of the Warm Springs Pools, referencing the structures as they were when the resort acquired them in 1925.
"We are delighted to have neared the end of this major rehabilitation project and humbled to now be part of these structures' long history. The team has stayed true to the character of the baths while also offering a safer, more accessible experience to the community. It hasn't been an easy process, with even more deterioration uncovered along the way, but we are pleased with the quantity of historic fabric that we were able to retain," said Ed Pillsbury, Principal at 3North.
While the work officially began in September 2021, The Homestead's efforts to preserve the structures began several years prior. In 2016, the resort formed a Bathhouses Advisory Board which included notable preservationists from the Mid-Atlantic region. The board's guidance and experience led to the creation of an extensive Historic Structures Report which provided a wealth of information to the architectural team at 3North who were responsible for drafting the plans for the rehabilitation.
The Gentlemen's and Ladies' Bathhouses will be open Wednesday - Sunday from 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. Reservations are required and are available on the hour priced at $25 per person per 50-minute soak. Family soaking time will be from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. (swimsuits required and children under the age of 18 may come with a parent), adult co-ed soaking time (for ages 16+; swimsuits required) will be from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m., and adult soaking (by gender, ages 18+; swimsuits optional) between 3:00 - 6:00 p.m. Reservations may be made by calling 540-839-3860 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Revised: 02/20/2023 - Article Viewed 1,685 Times
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