Appropriately found in Warm Springs, Virginia in Bath County is the Jefferson Pools. These natural warm springs were discovered by Native Americans hundreds of years ago as they explored the area. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of at least 9,000 years of human use of the springs. The 98 degree temperature of the water combined with the mineral content of the springs is said to provide natural relief for the body and spirit. The water temperature of the springs remains constant throughout the changing seasons. The high concentration of the minerals in the springs causes the body to float. These spas are part of The Homestead, a resort hotel.
It was in 1818 that Thomas Jefferson journeyed to the natural mineral spring waters and was said to have spent three weeks relaxing three times a day in the spa. When he arrived, Jefferson was 75 years old and suffered from rheumatism. He traveled to the springs in August of 1818 looking for relief. After his visit, he wrote a letter to his daughter describing the springs to be “of the first merit”. The pools were named in his honor in 1996. Today, The Omni Homestead Archives contain the original guestbook recording Jefferson’s twenty two day visit to the springs.
Mrs. Robert E Lee also frequented the springs. She required a special chair to lower her in the water. This chair can still be seen at the bathhouses today but due to corroded chains and the age of the chair, the pools are no longer handicap accessible.
The Jefferson Pools are made up of two main buildings. The Gentlemen’s Pool House was built in 1761 for use by both men and women. The pool holds 43,000 gallons of crystal clear flowing spring water. The men’s building is the oldest spa structure in the United States. The circular women’s building was constructed in 1836 offering the ladies a pool all to themselves. Because of the separate facilities for men and women, bathing suits were optional during certain hours. Even today, there are adult soaking hours where skinny dipping is allowed. Due to the need of wanting to preserve the history of the well-preserved structures, the resort fixes immediate improvements but has yet to decide to remodel the pools completely.
Travelers to Warms Springs can take a dip in the water year round for $17.00 per hour. There is a gift shop on site offering postcards and items made from the spring waters. Beginning in May, the pools are open daily from 10:00am to 6:00pm with hours varying for adult swim and family swim times.
The Hummingbird Inn Bed and Breakfast is within an hour drive to Warm Springs making this the ideal spot to rest your head after soaking up the springs. Complete your weekend of rest and relaxation with plush robes offered in each room and extras including the Romance Package, a bottle of wine and chocolate covered strawberries for $30.00. The Inn also offers in room massages for $100.00 per hour or a couple’s massage over the course of two hours. To make a reservation, check availability and reserve your room today.
Photo courtesy of James W Bailey