Omni Homestead plans to restore Jefferson Pools, reopen them by 2020

WARM SPRINGS, Va. (WDBJ7) - A beloved site in one hometown will soon get the TLC it desperately needs. A new plan to restore the Jefferson Pools is exciting locals about bringing back the past for the future of Bath County.

"Where else can you go and soak in natural hot springs in bath houses that date to the late 1700s, early 1800s?" said Lynn Swann, a Spokesperson for the Omni Homestead, as she gestured to the bath houses behind her.

Along the main highway in Warm Springs you'll find a diamond in the rough. It's one that'll be buffed to it's original shine within the next year.

“Our plan is to restore the bath houses so that we will be using similar materials and we will be keeping with the authentic design of the structures," Swann said.

The Omni Homestead made the announcement this week, saying they'll be working with an architectural firm, 3North, and the Department of Historic Resources.

The decaying Jefferson Pools have not been doing so well, especially since their closure in 2017.

"Many more shingles have blown off the roofs," said Phil Deemer, a member of the activist group Preservation Bath. "The dressing rooms on the side, you can see the roof on the one back there, there are now holes in the roof that weren't there before.”

Deemer and his peers have long lobbied The Homestead, including previous owners, to do something about the quickly deteriorating bath houses. While The Omni leaders promised an eventual restoration, Preservation Bath pleaded for a mitigation plan to keep them from getting worse.

The group created a short term plan, estimated at $80,000, to keep the houses from getting worse. Deemer told WDBJ7 in May of 2018 the people at the Homestead were been cooperative but slow to take action.

"That's what were asking them to please do, and if they don't want to do it, let someone else do it," Deemer said in 2018.

But now a plan from the Homestead, and a promise to renovate and reopen the pools by summer 2020.

“The Homestead understands and really appreciates the historic nature of these structures and we value that history as part of not just our resort history but this whole region," Swann said. "And so when we made the decision to go ahead with the repairs we did it so it would be in keeping with the original design.”

Omni will use historic tax credits to make it happen, maintaining the authenticity and making the job a little less expensive in the long run. Swann said the Department of Historic Resources and 3North will finalize a conceptual plan and strategy by this summer. Then the public will be privy to the finer details of the restoration efforts, and the estimated cost. Money from lodging taxes should also work in the Homestead's favor.

“From Omni it means a lot," Deemer said. "Previous owners gave dates and didn’t live up to them. So from Omni, the date’s important.”

Deemer said he is disappointed the work hadn't begun sooner and feels that the pool's closure has had an economic impact on the community's business owners.

“Their perception is that closing the pools had meant that many people that used to come regularly, aren't coming," he said.

While Deemer said he'd like it done sooner, he wants it done right, and he believes the right people at the Department of Historic Resources are on the job. He's ready for the water and the money to flow into the county once again.

"So the reopening again I think is great news for the county, for the businesses, for the people of the county," he said.