Working to Save the Pools

Friends of the Pools was formed for the purpose of protecting the structural, cultural and historic integrity of the Warm Springs Pools in Bath County, Virginia — the oldest spa structures in the United States.

We have been actively working on several fronts and, as 2014 ends, this seems like a good time to sum up where things stand and to outline some of what is planned for the new year.

As you will recall, in March the folks at The Homestead asked us to give them time to budget and plan for the restoration work on the Pools. We reminded them about both the existence and contents of the 2012 Silman “Condition Assessment” report on the Bath Houses and the Victorian Cottage. We gave them our draft Request for Proposals to use in hiring a firm to do the needed Historic Structures Report. We pointed them to resources to learn more about how to obtain both Federal and Virginia historic rehabilitation tax credits. And, now we wait to hear from The Homestead and from the Omni owners. As soon as we know something, we will report it to you.

2015 offers an opportunity to build on what started with the single focus of “saving” the Pools. When we organized as Preservation Bath, we said that “we are dedicated to perpetuating and revitalizing the County’s cultural, architectural and historic heritage thereby ensuring that historic places are integral parts of the lives of present and future generations. We are committed to the preservation of the built environment and its setting in order to protect and create an appreciation for the historic resources of the region.

So, what is Preservation Bath planning for 2015? We plan to:

  • Establish an annual Preservation Award to honor those who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to preservation in Bath County. We have not yet worked out all of the details. Our current thoughts are to award homeowners and commercial property owners/developers for efforts that have preserved and protected the architectural and archeological heritage of Bath County. Projects associated with nominations must focus on the rehabilitation of structures at least 50 years old. We want to recognize an owner, architect, design firm, contractor or developer for a domestic, commercial or public sector project that best exemplifies the use of preservation standards and brings an outstanding building into appropriate contemporary use.
  • Seek nominations for submission to Preservation Virginia for its annual list of Most Endangered Historic Sites in the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, we know that too many buildings and landscapes across our County face imminent or sustained threats to their integrity, or, in some cases, their very survival. We want to help organize and support nominations for this list in an effort to help raise awareness of historic sites at risk from neglect, deterioration, lack of maintenance, insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy.
  • Draft “Design” Guidelines. Many local governments have established design standards to help property owners plan for new building or for restoration projects. We hope to develop similar standards and then to submit them to County’s Planning Commission for consideration. This is an outgrowth of our participation earlier this year in the preparation of the County’s 2014-2019 Comprehensive Plan. We believe that there is an opportunity for the County to request, not require, creative design standards—to provide a good understanding of design related expectations.
  • Take a Preservation Bath show on the road. One of our jobs is to educate people about the historic preservation issues confronting us in Bath County. We have developed a Preserving Our Historic Treasures presentation and we had the opportunity to give it a “test drive” at the October meeting of the Warm Springs Valley Garden Club. We hope to be invited by other groups to talk about the work that Preservation Bath is doing.
  • Print a rack brochure to highlight some of the most critical preservation needs, identify historic preservation resources, and help people, who want to help us, find us.
  • Research “abandoned” chapels in the County. More on this when we have a better idea of where this work is leading us.

Don’t misinterpret our being “quiet” as meaning that we have lost interest. We are gearing up for an active and productive new year—strengthening a sense of community and galvanizing preservation efforts.