Going Underground in America
Just a short elevator ride from the main lobby is the Greenbrier's 112,000 square foot bunker. A government facility secretly constructed during the cold war for members of Congress to work and live indefinitely in the event of a nuclear attack on Washington D.C. It's like something out of Dr. Strangelove.
The centuries old resort had served the military very well in the past: a confederate hospital and headquarters during the Civil War, a holding tank for German and Japanese diplomats at the onset of World War Two, and finally, as a military hospital for the U.S. Army later in that same war. It wasn't such a stretch then for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, frequent guest, to choose the Greenbrier as the ideal place to facilitate his "Continuity of Government" program.
According to resident historian Dr. Robert Conte, the surrounding Allegheny Mountains provided a natural shield from fallout, bunker maintenance could easily blend with hotel maintenance and most importantly, White Sulphur Springs, while close enough, is also far enough from Washington to withstand detonation. Of course, secrecy among the Greenbrier employees who maintained the facility was essential. They had to sign a pledge to keep their mouths shut.
Before seeing the bunker for myself, I was sure I knew the most compelling reason for the site location. Look, if all hell's breaking loose, I'd choose a posh resort over a school basement, too!
The Greenbrier gives guided tours of the bunker. For $25, you can see where members of Congress would have slept, ate, bathed and communicated with other secret bases. If you take the tour, just try not to nervously sweat on your neighbor during the simulated lock down.
And seemingly, the "Continuity of Government" program was designed so that one person could blow the lid off it. Reporter Ted Gup did just that in May of 1992. According to his article in the Washington Post Magazine, an unidentified source told Gup of the facility. Soon after the article was published, the government began a base-closing operation at the Greenbrier that took nearly three years to complete.
Starting at $196.00 a night, including dinner and breakfast, the Greenbrier is sure to please even the most Jaded traveler. You can bowl, learn to cook fine cuisine, handle live falcons, go horseback riding, white water rafting, or even learn off-road driving in a Land Rover.
Just about the only thing you can't do at the Greenbrier is spend the night in the bunker. But James Bond fans take heart, if you want to be treated like a real secret agent, remember this: Moneypenny would have booked 007 into the Presidential Suite.
From White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, I'm Susan Butler, for The Savvy Traveler.
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