Review: Underwhelmed at Jefferson Pools

IMG_7483When I heard there was a place in Virginia called “Warm Springs”, I was immediately curious to see if there was a bathhouse located in the county seat of Bath County. I mean they had to call it Bath County for a reason, right? Turns out I was right! A quick google search led me to the Jefferson Pools website, owned and operated by luxurious Omni Homestead Resort.

According to an article written by the University of Virginia,  the Gentleman’s Pool House is the oldest spa structure in the United States, built in 1761. Thomas Jefferson even visited the exact wooden structure surrounding the spring in 1817.

“Local legends say that Native Americans journeying through the valley discovered these magnificent crystal springs hundreds of years ago, and archaeological evidence seems to confirm that this area has been used by humans for at least 9,000 years.” – Jefferson Pools website

I love history and since the Jefferson Pools in Warm Springs, Virginia is only 80 miles directly north of Roanoke, I decided to check it out. To make a reservation I called the Omni Homestead Resort the same day I wanted to go to the warm spring. The woman I spoke with on the phone was very friendly and willing to answer my several questions. In order to reserve my spot, I had to give my credit card number over the phone, but my card wasn’t charged at that time. The reservation was non-refundable.


You can see the sun through the crumbling roof in one of the changing rooms.

After reserving my spot, I pulled up reviews about the bathhouse and found that a lot of people commented on the terrible condition of the building the wood structure surrounding the spring is in. However, several people also noted that once they got in the water, they felt the experience was worth it despite the deteriorating building. So I imagined I may be able to enjoy my experience despite the lackluster appearance.

Boy, I was wrong.

The co-ed soaking for adults 18 and older is 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. so I arrived around 1:30 and waited in line to sign a waiver at the gift shop and paid $38 for two adults. We decided to soak in the men’s bathhouse because it is deeper than the women’s bathhouse. We were pointed in the direction of the bathhouse and walked over. As soon as we opened the doors to the building, we were greeted by our attendant. He immediately looked at my phone in my hand and told me I couldn’t bring my phone in there. “No pictures!” he nearly shouted. I asked if I had to go bring my phone to my car or if I could put it in my bag. “I don’t care where you put it, I just don’t want to see it out,” he said very gruffly. He then handed us each a towel and didn’t give us any directions where to go or what to do next. As soon as we stepped into the pool area, we quickly realized why they didn’t want us to take pictures. The wooden structure surrounding the warm spring is literally falling apart. There are holes in the ceiling, jagged edges and broken wood everywhere. The building literally looks like it will fall apart any second. The spring is surrounded by changing rooms with a curtain to close for privacy. After changing, we walked out to the pool and grabbed pool noodles to use to float with because the pool is pretty deep. When I grabbed the pool noodle, I noticed all of them were severely bent, looked really old and worn, and seemed to be covered in mildew.

The idea is to float and relax for an hour. But I just couldn’t relax when everywhere I looked I saw a building that is falling apart.

I was shocked at the condition of just about everything I set my eyes on. I also felt disappointed that such a historic structure had been left to rot and fall into disrepair. All the while, the luxury resort is collecting nearly $20 a ticket and charging people to use nearly unusable conditions.  I tried to make the best of it and close my eyes and relax in the warm water, but it was tough.

We ended up leaving well before the allotted time of one hour.

Overall, I would not recommend Jefferson Pools to anyone until the building is renovated and preserved.


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