Long before European Americans came to the Allegheny Mountains, Native Americans considered the region now known as Bath as a sacred space. Many came to enjoy the healing springs that bubble to the earth’s surface in natural pools in the Warm Springs Valley. In the 18th Century, the area gradually became a place of retreat and rejuvenation for European colonists, culminating in the establishment of what we know today as The Omni Homestead Resort in 1766.
Northwest of Warm Springs, visitors can explore the antebellum Warwick Mansion in Hidden Valley, the set for the film Sommersby, starring Jody Foster and Richard Gere. In addition, many of the buildings throughout the county were built during the pre and post Civil War era and offer a wealth of history. The Warm Springs Inn, for example, originally served as the county’s first courthouse and jail. Guests of the inn can still see where prisoners were held in the 19th Century and dine in the former courtroom and judge’s chambers.
Other historic places remain today including the Mustoe house (the oldest structure in the County) as well as other landmarks, historic villages and cemeteries.
GPS: 38.168°N, 79.890°W
Christ Church at Union Chapel Cemetery1974 Sam Snead HighwayHot Springs, VA
Cleek CemeteryRoute 220 North of Warm SpringsVA
GPS: 38.193°N, 79.732°W
Green Valley Cemetery
GPS: 38.073°N, 79.586°W
Jacob Cleek CemeteryRoute 220 North of Warm SpringsVA
Mount Horeb Baptist Church Cemetery5742 Cowpasture RiverMillboro, VA
Mount Mary Cemetery
GPS: 38.162°N, 79.466°W
Mountain Grove CemeteryLocated just off Route 39, left on Gatewood DriveVA
The Pines Cemetery
GPS: 37.942°N, 79.568°W
Warm Springs CemeteryLocated on Route 220 next to the Old Dairy BarnVA
GPS: 38.050°N, 79.781°W
Use this link and select Bath County from the pull down menu to find information on the historical markers in the county including images and locations: vcris.dhr.virginia.gov/HistoricMarkers
Libraries and Museums
Bath County Historical Society and Research Library99 Courthouse Hill RoadWarm Springs, VA
The Bath County Historical Society Museum has several dioramas, exhibits and artifacts including period clothing, antique sidesaddles, farm tools and Civil War and Native American artifacts; Entrance to the museum is free but donations are always accepted and appreciated. The Research Center and Library is a treasure trove of information for researchers and genealogists alike. Included in the collection of materials are official records, books, published and unpublished family histories and materials covering the County of Bath in particular, as well as Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. Use of the research library is free for residents. Non-residents are asked to pay a researchers fee of $5.00 per day for the use of materials. The Society Gift Corner also includes County of Bath books, historical prints and other seasonal items for purchase.
Bath County Public Library96 Courthouse Hill RoadWarm Springs, VA
Hours of Operation: Monday:10am-6pm, Tuesday: 11am-7pm, Wednesday:1pm-6pm, Thursday:10am-8pm, Friday: 10am-5pm, and Saturday: 1pm-5pm, Sunday closed
The Bath County Public Library is a full service public library, with computers and free, secure wireless internet. Meeting rooms are also available. Reservations can be made at the Reference Desk. General collection includes an excellent local history collection, and microfilm of local newspaper and census. Fax and photocopies services available for a fee.
Points of Interest
The Jefferson PoolsLocated at the junction of Route 220 and Route 3911 Bath StreetWarm Springs, VA
Regrettably, the historic Jefferson Pools are closed and will remain closed until further notice based on directive from Bath County officials. The Omni Homestead Resort will continue to evaluate all options to ensure the long-term viability of the Jefferson Pools.
The Jefferson Pools
Prior to its settlement by colonists from Europe, Bath County was home to Native Americans, whose pathways traversed the valleys and mountain gaps, using them to travel to buffalo hunting grounds and for trade. Legend has it that the springs were discovered by a Native American brave in the 1600s as he traveled across the area on his way to a tribal council. He came upon the warm pools and soaked his weary body. He left refreshed, telling others about the pools. The trek to Warm Springs to “take the waters” was born.
Warm Springs soon developed into a spa resort, with a hotel constructed adjacent to the Pools. To accommodate the growing number of visitors, an octagonal stone basin was built in the 1760s to hold water for bathing. It was not covered by a building, but it was surrounded for privacy by a fence or hedge. This “Great Bath” was used by men and women on an alternating schedule during the day.
One notable guest was Thomas Jefferson, who visited in 1818 at the age of 75 and stayed for over three weeks, taking the water several times a day to help him allay the pain of rheumatism. Contrary to popular notion, Jefferson did not design the octagonal frame building covering the stone basin, which was built in the mid-1820s. This structure currently serves as the Men’s Bath House. The separate Ladies’ Bath House, a framed building that covers the circular bath for women, was added in the mid-1870s.
The buildings are listed as the Warm Springs Bath Houses on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places, and are also included in the Warm Springs and West Warm Springs Historic District. The current owner, The Omni Homestead Resort, is overseeing a restoration of the structures. The plans call for maintaining the historic character of the buildings.