Omni Homestead celebrates 250 years

It is well known by now that the Omni Homestead is celebrating its 250th birthday this year. It’s marking this 2016 celebration with everything from special promotional deals to a different flavor of birthday cake every day. From Memorial Day through Labor Day there will be fireworks every Friday night. And no doubt, the number of visitors will increase.

But way back when . . . in 1766 the Homestead was a simple lodge with 18 rooms. I can’t help but wonder who some of those guests might have been, and how badly they must have wanted a break from “civilized society” to travel over the mountains and down the Valley. Maybe some of them were simply on their way to better opportunities further west, at a time when finding the pass through the mountains at all was the challenge? One thing we do know is that by 1818 Thomas Jefferson sought out the Gentleman’s Spa because he needed the warm water and distance from his busy work schedule to relax. Eventually the train came through Hot Springs, and made it much easier to get here; but there was no shuttle bus to the baths, so there was another whole resort right there beside them.

Plenty of other equally famous visitors, and less so have some to the Springs and the Hotel in two and a half centuries, and now thanks to the foresight of Preservation Bath, and the follow-through of the Omni Homestead, the buildings at the Pools may be around another century or two for tired souls needing respite and rejuvenation.

On Tuesday of this week, Davis Jurcak, the managing director at the hotel announced the long-awaited first step to restoring the decrepit bathhouses.

“The Pools are a part of the resort, and the foundation of Bath County, and the Historic Structures Report is a key first step in ensuring their future.”

The report, which will give some of the history and describe their current condition, will guide the process of restoration, alongside the architects’s drawings, and contractor’s tools. In addition to the Historic Structures report, a five member Committee of professionals knowledgeable about historic preservation will advise the Omni Homestead.   Mr. Jurcak also shared the names of those committee members, and Terry Ammons, the architect who will head up the project.   His design company specializes in old buildings, and museum display.

One other element of the resort’s birthday celebration is an opportunity for guests, and associates (the contemporary word for employee) to tell stories of their experiences on their website. If you go to the Omni Homestead website, there is a tab for the 250th celebration. Why not use a cold winter day to reflect and write about your connection with this centuries old oasis in the mountains?




Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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