5/20/2015 9:13:00 AM Gibson Cottage On Preservation
Virginia's Most Endangered List
With the Gibson Cottage in Bath County as a backdrop, Elizabeth Kostelny, executive director of Preservation Virginia, announces a list of Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places Monday. Included on the list is the Gibson Cottage, built around 1840 and originally used as the Warm Springs Hotel manager’s residence. Natural Retreats now owns the property and has expressed an interest in restoring it. (Photo Courtesy Lee Brauer Photogra-phy)
BY LARRY O’ROURKE
WARM SPRINGS — A Bath County structure that predates the Civil War is among seven Virginia sites included in this year’s Most Endangered Historic Places by Preservation Virginia.
Preservation Virginia included the Gibson Cottage in Warm Springs on its list of Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places during an on-site announcement Monday morning.
Similar announcements were held in Marion, Staunton, Eastville and Port Royal.
This is the 11th year Preservation Virginia has presented a list of Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places to raise awareness of locations that face imminent or sustained threats to their integrity, or in some cases, their very survival.
These listings are intended to bring attention to the threats described and to encourage individuals and organizations to continue to advocate for and come to reasonable solutions about the protection and preservation of Virginia’s irreplaceable historic resources.
“We continue to work with communities to find these solutions and bring these historic sites back to viability,” said Elizabeth Kostelny, executive director of Preservation Virginia who made the Warm Springs announcement.
Built around 1840 and used as the Warm Springs Hotel manager’s residence, the Gibson Cottage is one of the last remaining original buildings from the hotel’s important mid-19th century expansion that transformed the county seat of Bath Court House into a welcoming stop on the Virginia springs summer circuit.
The cottage survived the razing of the hotel in 1925 and served as a residence for the next 67 years.
The current owner, Natural Retreats, purchased the property in 2013 and has expressed an interest in renovating it. The structure is currently open to the elements and deteriorating. It is now listed for possible demolition by Bath County, but county residents have expressed concern about its possible loss.
Natural Retreats has stated its intent to save the Gibson Cottage. Preservation Virginia has urged the owner to take measures now to protect the site from further deterioration. If saved or restored, the cottage could play an integral part in telling the story of the Warm Springs Pools.
“This is a community that is very open — supportive — and already the owner has expressed willingness to do that stabilization,” Kostelny said. “Our listing this year was just to say that now is the time for that to occur.”
Josh Woodson, general manager of Homestead Preserve, said his company plans to restore the Gibson Cottage and develop the Warm Springs hamlet above the Jefferson Pools.
“This will take on an appearance that will resemble the original village there with a modern flair that will fit into the landscape and enhance the section around the pools,” Woodson said. “With the idea that the Omni will invest into the pools for renovation, this phase of development within the Homestead Preserve will add to the vision and concept of Homestead Preserve and also provide a visually appealing section of homes for the county and its guests to purchase or rent from Natural Retreats’ Handpicked Homes.
“While we are in the planning phase of this project, our goal is to realistically have this section ready for county approval by the end of the year and then to commence construction sometime in the beginning of 2016,” Woodson added.
Ruth Selden-Sturgill, who nominated Gibson Cottage for Preservation Virginia’s list, said the Warm Springs area was basically a frontier for architectiure until about the 1830s. The Gibson Cottage was one of the last five remaining buildings from that period which also includes the second courthouse, now the Warm Springs Inn, the jail, Warm Springs Presbyterian Church and the Episcopal Church.
“These are the only five remaining buildings in what was known as Bath Court House, which was the political center of this very small, rural community,” she explained. “It is emblematic of that wonderful building effort in the 1840s for the Warm Springs Hotel.”
Other sites included in Preservation Virginia’s list of Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places include the Sweet Briar College campus in Amherst, the Abijah Thomas Octagon House in Marion, the Jamestown Road Houses in Williamsburg, the town of Port Royal, a small town on the Rappahannock River in Caroline County that was chartered in 1744, the Taylor-Whittle House in Norfolk and historic courthouses and courthouse squares statewide.
Preservation Virginia maintains a belief that each historic place listed has the potential to strengthen local communities by pursuing historic tax credits, creating jobs, preserving local characteristics and attracting new residents.
Looking back over 10 years, Kostelny said 51 percent of the sites listed as endangered have been saved, while 13 percent were lost. The remaining are still in process.
She also thanked the Preservation Bath organization for its efforts to protect the historic integrity of Bath County.
“It’s been wonderful the way that you all have taken something that is at risk and used it as a way to center around building a community and then expand it beyond that one site — to really look at how effective historic preservation tools can be in creating a future for Bath County,” Kostelny said. “I want to thank you every day for the things you do. I think you all have set the bar high for the rest of the commonwealth.”
Preservation Virginia, a private, non-profit organization and statewide historic preservation leader founded in 1899, is dedicated to perpetuating and revitalizing Virginia’s cultural, architectural and historic heritage, ensuring that historic places are integral parts of the lives of present and future generations.