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Interview of Jean Bruns on Daytime Blueridge – The Anderson Cottage

Jean Bruns (1929-2015)Those of you who have stayed with us will know, or at least know of, my grandmother, Jean Bruns. She put so much of her time, love, blood, sweat, and tears into this house, I still feel her presence daily. Today would have been Jean’s 87th birthday, and I thought it would be a good time to share this interview. It’s been almost a year since it was filmed and you can see that beautiful Fall color in the trees. I so appreciate that we have this video, it is wonderful to be able to hear her voice and see the vibrant spirit in her eyes!

Jean was a real character, and the best part of visiting Warm Springs. I am so lucky to have had this woman as a role model. Fierce and clever, she instilled a streak of outspokenness in our family that runs strong. She also showed us so much love – she was not your typical cuddly grandma, but she was a generous spirit who adored us in quiet ways. Our family speaks often about how she was a woman ahead of her time, and given all the opportunity I have been blessed with, I hope that I am doing her proud. It is truly an honor to be following in her footsteps as an innkeeper at The Anderson Cottage.

I miss her dearly, and treasure the memories and good times we shared. If you have a favorite story about Jean, we would love it if you’d share below in the comments!

If you’re having trouble viewing this video, it can also be found at this link.

Jefferson Pools in Warm Springs, Virginia

What to do in Warm Springs, Virginia

Warm Springs, Virginia has a surprising number of attractions for a small mountain village. The Anderson Cottage is a great base for exploring Bath County and the surrounding area, but you can easily keep yourself busy just exploring on foot. Below are our recommendations for the best things to do when visiting.

Bathe at the historic Jefferson Pools

Jefferson Pools in Warm Springs, Virginia

No visit to Warm Springs is complete without a soak in the natural, warm springs after which it is named. Similar attractions may boast luxury amenities, but nothing compares to the history of the Jefferson Pools. Also named the Warm Springs Pools, the Men’s bath-house was erected in 1761 and the Women’s bath-house in 1836, making these some of Bath County’s oldest structures. The wear of age is visible, but the experience is unmatched. Soak in the 98 degree springs and feel your troubles wash away.

The pools are open daily from 10am to 6pm weather permitting. Family and co-ed soak is from 10am to 1pm, after which men bathe in the men’s pool and women bathe in the women’s, bathing suits are optional. Cost for a one-hour soak is $17.

More information can be found at the Omni Homestead’s website.

Enjoy the hammock at the Anderson Cottage

Hammock in the trees by the side of the creek at the Anderson Cottage.

After a soak in the pools, you’ll be ready for a nap, and if you’re a guest at the house, you can’t miss out on the hammock. Stretched below the trees, the hammock is the perfect place to settle down and enjoy the cool mountain breeze and relaxing sound of the creek that runs behind the property.

Enjoy dinner at the Waterwheel Restaurant at the Gristmill

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While new restaurants have popped up in nearby Hot Springs, the best place to eat in Bath County is still right here in Warm Springs, and only a 5 minute walk from the Anderson Cottage. The Waterwheel Restaurant offers fine-dining in the historic building which once housed the village mill. We recommend the Onion Soup Au Gratin and the Highland County Mountain Trout.

Reservations are highly recommended, though seating at the bar is first come first serve. Call (540) 839-2231 or book online at Open Table. Menus can be found at the Inn at Gristmill Square website.

Hike to Flag Rock for the best views in Bath County

Flag Rock Trail - Green fields and trail sign

Wake up to beat the heat and enjoy a vigorous hike to Flag Rock. From the house, it’s a 10-15 minute walk to the start of the trail and the hike itself is an energetic 3 hour climb up Warm Springs Mountain. Rated “strenuous,” those who aren’t up to hiking the whole way can drive up the mountain for a shorter walk to the overlook. Enjoy a breathtaking 360 degree panorama from the summit, with the valley of Warm Springs to the west and Millboro Springs to the east.

Visit the Nature Conservancy website for more information, and see great pictures on the Flag Rock Overlook Facebook Page.

Grab a sandwich at the Milk House Market at the Old Dairy

Old Dairy at the Homestead Preserve in Warm Springs, Virginia

End your hike back at the Old Dairy, which has been wonderfully restored by the Homestead Preserve. The area once provided the Homestead Resort with dairy, butter and cheese, and has now been converted to a recreation center. The Milk House Market has coffee, delicious sandwiches and a specialty store.

Read more about events and recreation at the Natural Retreats website.

Relax at the Warm Spirit Spa

Warm Spirit Spa in Warm Springs, Virginia

Complete your relaxing Bath County experience with a visit to the Warm Spirit Spa. Just five minutes walk from the house, the spa offers massages, facials, and Ayurvedic services. You might not expect it from a small business in our tiny little village, but their therapists are truly world class!

For information and appointments, call (540) 839-6600. Their website is coming soon at www.warmspiritspa.com.

Discover new artists at the Warm Springs Gallery

Warm Springs Gallery in Warm Springs, Virginia

Another hidden gem, the Warm Springs Gallery features local painters, print-makers and fine craft artisans. The gallery is a hub of activity, hosting seasonal exhibits and regular events and workshops. Their annual Plein Air Festival is one of the Fall’s best events. They have also recently opened an artisinal gift shop and Tea Room serving tea and sandwiches for lunch.

You can find out more at the Warm Springs Gallery website.

Learn local lore at the Historical Society

Bath County Historical Society in Warm Springs, Virginia

The Anderson Cottage and the Bath County Historical Society have a long relationship. If you want to learn more about the history of the local area, you must visit the their Museum and Research Library which is housed next to the Bath County Courthouse.

Open Friday and Saturday from 10am to 4pm. Call (540) 839-2543 or visit the Bath County Historical Society for more information.

Dear Anderson Cottage, Welcome to the Internet

Lily Bruns on Porch

Legacy is important, and when you decide to take on the family business, it’s a delicate task to balance progress with tradition. I’m thrilled to be launching our new website, it has been a labor of love and I am so excited to bring our little bed & breakfast into the digital age. A small part of me, however, is prepared for a good retributional haunting from Jean, my grandmother, who ran the Anderson Cottage as a bed & breakfast for over 30 years.

Searching for inspiration as I wrote up copy for the site, I reviewed one of her old brochures and stumbled upon this tidbit:

“The rocking chairs on the porch and the hammock by the creek typify this place. I also hope I’m sending a quiet signal by not having an 800 number and minimal online presence etc.”

The rocking chairs and hammock remain, but a lot is changing. I smile every time I read this brochure, which makes it clear that guests should expect very little “frou frou factor” at the house. This has never been your typical lace and doily B&B, Jean had her own style. My grandmother was a woman with presence. Educated and clever, she had a mind of her own and took very little nonsense from fussy guests, mansplainers, or Republicans (woe to he who was all three at once!). At the head of the breakfast table, she regaled guests with stories of her travels in Scotland and Kenya, of the times she scandalized the family by participating in civil rights sit-ins, and of her days as a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. While this historic house has its own charms, it was her warmth and personality that made this such a delightful place to visit for both family and guests.

Big shoes to fill

As I attempt to follow in her footsteps, I wonder what it was like for her when she inherited the place from her mother, Jean Randolph. By all accounts, when my grandmother first decided to take it on, the Anderson Cottage was a ramshackle cluster of buildings much run down from the busy and boisterous place Jean knew growing up, when it was a summer inn run by her great-aunt, Somers Anderson, under the name Locustlyn. By the 60s, however, guests had been absent for years and the eponymous locusts trees were gone, Jean had a chance to forge a new identity and she certainly made her mark.

Now, this place mean so much to so many. To my father, aunt, and their cousins who spent summers here growing up, and as adults, pitched in to keep the 200 year-old house in one piece. To my own sister and our extended cousins, for whom this place also became a home and refuge. To the many guests, who were more than just guests but dear friends after all those the years. Jean, through force of will, a good helping of elbow grease, and generous support from friends and family, brought the house back into good repair, and then proceeded to fill it with people she loved. We have her to thank for the closeness our family still enjoys today.

A family affair

While I am serving as innkeeper and marketing manager, my cousin Alma is also living at the house and assisting with the general management. We’d love to take credit for what you see at The Anderson Cottage today, but it’s been a real family effort. For myself, I hope to make my own mark by creating the digital extension of this wonderful place. It will be an interesting journey to combine the old with the new. To capture the essence of what makes this place so special and share it with appropriate filters and hashtags. I don’t think Jean would approve of us being on Twitter, but I think she would appreciate that her legacy and the Anderson Cottage lives on. I hope you’re looking forward to this journey as much as I am.