Department of Historic Resources
For Immediate Release
October 12, 2021
Contact: Randy Jones, DHR
—Three markers highlight “Warm Springs Baths,” the town of “Warm Springs,” and the historically African American community of “West Warm Springs” —
—Markers texts reproduced below; photos available from DHR—
This weekend three state historical markers issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will be dedicated that highlight Warm Springs Baths, a resort since the late 1700s, the courthouse town of Warm Springs, and West Warm Springs, an historically African American community tracing back to the post–Civil War era.
The public event to dedicate the markers will begin at 1 p.m., Sunday, October 17, and will involve short unveiling ceremonies at each of the markers. The first marker on the agenda will be “Warm Springs Baths,” located near the “Gazebo” on US 220 (Sam Snead Hwy) and alongside the historic bath houses. The traveling ceremony will next visit and unveil the “Warm Springs” marker, located near the Bath Co. Public Schools administrative building at 12145 Sam Snead Hwy. The “West Warm Springs” marker will be unveiled at its location near Webb’s General Store, at 15828 Mountain Valley Road (US 39). Each unveiling ceremony is expected to take no more than 35 minutes.
Event speakers during the sequential marker unveilings will include Philip M. Deemer, president of Preservation Bath; Mark A. Spadoni, managing director of the Omni Homestead Resort; Debra A. McClane, an architectural historian; local historian Perlista Y. Henry; and Julie V. Langan, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
Following the marker unveilings, there will be a presentation of the 6th Annual Preservation Lecture, “Cultural Sleuthing,” by local historian Henry and Kathleen Curtis Wilson, a Virginia Humanities and Textile Historian. The lecture will take place at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, with Deacon Oscar Beale presiding, in West Warm Springs.
Preservation Bath, the sponsor of the markers, is hosting and organizing the day’s events.
The “Warm Springs Baths” marker recalls that before the Revolutionary War, Thomas Lewis and his son John developed the resort, centering it on the naturally warmed mineral springs. The springs’ historic bath houses are “an example of 19th-century medicinal resort architecture,” the marker states. The octagonal frame bath house dates to around the 1820s, and the 22-sided Ladies’ Bath House to the mid-1870s. The Homestead assumed management of the Warm Springs Baths after 1925.
The courthouse town of Warm Springs, the marker relays, “reflects more than 200 years of settlement in the Warm Springs Valley.” The town’s “notable properties include the early-19th-century Oakley Farm, writer Mary Johnston’s home at Three Hills (1913), the Greek Revival courthouse (1914), the Homestead Dairy Barns (1928), Miller’s mill (ca. 1901), the 19th-century Warm Springs Bath Houses, two antebellum churches, and the 1840s courthouse and jail near the springs.”
The community of West Warm Springs arose after the Civil War when African Americans “purchased land on the western slope of Little Mountain.” Early residents worked at nearby resorts or found livelihoods as skilled artisans and craftsmen. Buildings important to the community’s life are John Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church (1873), Mount Pisgah Baptist Church (ca. 1880), and the Jones School, which served Black students early in the 20th century. Webb’s Store, near where the “West Warm Springs” marker is installed, was established around 1900. “Descendants of the founding families have been instrumental in preserving the history of West Warm Springs,” the marker concludes.
The markers were approved for manufacture and installation in 2019 and 2020 by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which is authorized to designate new state historical markers. The markers’ manufacturing costs were covered by Preservation Bath.
Virginia’s historical highway marker program, which began in 1927 with the installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Route 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,600 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, and by local partners in jurisdictions outside of VDOT’s authority.
[PLEASE NOTE: DHR markers are erected not to “honor” their subjects but rather to educate and inform the public about a person, place, or event of regional, state, or national importance. In this regard, markers are not memorials.]
Texts of markers:
Warm Springs Baths
The Warm Springs Baths, an example of 19th-century medicinal resort architecture, formed the centerpiece of a small village that served as the seat of Bath County from 1791 until 1908. Thomas Lewis and his son John developed a resort around the naturally warmed mineral springs before the Revolutionary War. Later served by a noted hotel, the springs became a popular destination for people who sought fashionable society and the waters’ reputed curative powers. The octagonal frame bath house was constructed in the 1820s, while the 22-sided Ladies’ Bath House was added by the mid-1870s. After the Warm Springs Hotel was razed in 1925, The Homestead assumed management of the Warm Springs Baths.
The courthouse town of Warm Springs reflects more than 200 years of settlement in the Warm Springs Valley. Located near the center of Bath County, this community encompasses a small village core and its surrounding rural landscape. The flanking mountains, Warm Springs Run, and the historic thermal springs are significant natural resources. Notable properties include the early-19th-century Oakley Farm, writer Mary Johnston’s home at Three Hills (1913), the Greek Revival courthouse (1914), the Homestead Dairy Barns (1928), Miller’s mill (ca. 1901), the 19th-century Warm Springs Bath Houses, two antebellum churches, and the 1840s courthouse and jail near the springs, which later became an inn.
West Warm Springs
African Americans, exercising newfound autonomy after the Civil War, purchased land here on the western slope of Little Mountain and established the community of West Warm Springs. Many early residents worked at nearby resorts, including the Warm Springs pools, or were skilled artisans and craftsmen. Central to community life were John Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church (1873), Mount Pisgah Baptist Church (ca. 1880), and the Jones School, which served Black students early in the 20th century. Webb’s Store (ca. 1900), restaurants, and a dance hall provided gathering places for residents. Descendants of the founding families have been instrumental in preserving the history of West Warm Springs.
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Originally posted: October 12, 2021
Updated: October 12, 2021