Scrapbook: Hot Springs, Virginia

Spring has finally taken hold and I can see summer beckoning on the horizon. I'm reminded of a brief trip I took last year to Virginia's Allegheny mountains for a story I was researching for the Washington Post. The piece was focused on one family so I didn't get a chance to tell you about the fried zucchini and green tomato dish and the time I took a dip in Thomas Jefferson's favorite pool. See my snaps below.


Room with a view: After a dousing of rain, the Allegheny mountains look lush and green from my room at the Homestead, in Hot Springs, Virginia.


This grande dame of American resorts is a decade older than the United States (though the current structure dates from the early 1900s). The main attraction: the hot springs that burble up in this area, said to cure everything from arthritis to polio. A railway (no longer running) brought all the fancy city people out to this Virginia backwater. The colonnaded main lobby was the place to congregate, then as now. The Homestead, Hot Springs, Virginia.


The Lobby Bar, lined with portraits of the 22 presidents who have visited the Homestead. The two visible in this photo are of George Bush Senior and Junior. Hot Springs, Virginia.


I’m no golfer, but even I can appreciate the import of this spot. The first tee at the Homestead’s Old Course is the oldest hole in continuous use, having first been used in 1892. In 1899, William McKinley teed off here, making him the first sitting president to play golf. The event made news, and the public was divided over the appropriateness of a president playing golf. Said McKinley, “The game requires study, and I have too many other subjects to study.” I'll just let you mull that over, in light of the current unpresidented climate. Hot Springs, Virginia.


Family fun: S’mores on the fire pit? Or a movie? Perhaps archery or falconry? Maybe croquet or zip lining? The conundrum for families is choosing among the dozens of activities, or inactivities, available. And parents can thankfully watch it all from a rocking chair, bench, or hammock. The Homestead, Hot Springs, Virginia.


This is no place to be on a diet. The Southern-inflected cuisine includes standouts such as fried zucchini or green tomatoes with Green Goddess sauce, butter-fried local Allegheny trout, honeyed Brussels sprouts, and bacon-bits-studded donuts. The Homestead, Hot Springs, Virginia.


Jefferson was here. No, really. The third president of the United States spent three weeks in Warm Springs, Virginia, in 1819, visiting this very pool house and soaking in its mineral-rich waters three times a day to soothe his rheumatism. The Gentlemen’s Pool House was built in 1761 and is the oldest spa structure in the country. It’s seriously dilapidated, but who cares when you can actually get in the pool (no pics allowed) and time travel. You may not have rheumatism, but the water works equally well for the modern malady of stress. The name of the bath house is a misnomer: men and women have always been able to take the waters historically, though at different times. A Ladies Bath House was added later. Today there are special times for coed, family, and nude (separate) bathing. $19 gets you a date with Jefferson’s ghost. You’ll need reservations. Jefferson Pools, Warm Springs, Virginia.