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For a Time, “The Warm” Was The Place to Be

Besides two historic Bath Houses in Warm Springs, Virginia, all that remains of a once leading destination resort in the Appalachian Mountains are legends. Those legends—the way nineteenth century resort life used to be—are brought back to life in a new book by Kathleen Curtis Wilson.

Dancing at the Warm Springs Hotel tells a half-century-long story of the multicultural society surrounding the famous resort. Showcasing nineteenth century politics, social customs, class, gender, and fashion, the book paints a picture of two communities, separated by race, who worked together to create memorable experiences for guests and hotel workers alike.

At a time when hotels ran much like today’s cruise ships, thousands of men, women, and children vacationed at “The Warm.” They enjoyed lavish entertainment, bathed in therapeutic mineral waters, and socialized away from the rigid societal complexities at home.

After the Civil War, the hotel thrived at a time of southern remembrance, clannish loyalty, elegance, and sophistication. Class distinctions were adhered to, and single daughters carefully chaperoned. Family servants kept clothing pressed and children in line. It was a resort renowned for serious matchmaking and secret rendezvous, pool parties and fancy-dress balls—a time of indulgence, before war and depression confronted the world in the next century.

This account of the Warm Springs Hotel is an authoritative, engaging, and beautifully illustrated addition to libraries, museums, and anyone interested in history—especially Southern history. Rare photography of men and women, black and white, at work and at play, create an unforgettable realism of changing social norms and the ways fashion embodies the politics of culture.

Sponsored by The Bath County Historical Society, the book is written by Kathleen Curtis Wilson, a historian, author, and speaker on Appalachian culture, textiles, and handcrafts. She is an Honorary Fellow at Virginia Humanities, Charlottesville, Virginia. For more than three decades, her work in the field of Appalachian craft has been recognized in the publication of four books, countless articles, and the history of the Southern Industrial Educational Association, 1905–1926, a digital resource.

Dancing at the Warm Springs Hotel is published by Mariner Publishing, which has produced several significant books for the Bath County Historical Society in the past decade. The book is available for purchase at the Historical Society, The Omni Homestead Resort and the Inn at Warm Springs. Purchase online at or contact Mariner Media at [email protected].

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