Located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia sits a large luxury resort that looks as though it should be on a postcard or possibly the set location of a Stephen King novel. Surrounded by natural wonders such as mineral springs and forest, The Greenbrier started accepting guest in 1778 and has since held guest in their 800+ rooms, suites, and estate homes. Among the rolling golf courses, lavish decorations, and sprawling lobbies there sits a piece of American History that was hidden from the public until recently.
It might come as a surprise or maybe not, that the government takes precautions in protecting their officials. Most widely known case of this is the secret service, however, with the possibilities of a nuclear war, the government started building what is now known as The Greenbrier Bunker. The Bunker began being built in 1958 and was finished in 1961, where it would soon hold one of the largest security operation secrets in the United States for decades.
Touring the Bunker
In 1992, the secret bunker became not so secret causing for the location to be de-commissioned from it expected job of protecting Congress upon a nuclear attack. With the de-commission of the bunker the hotel we left with a location that could not easily be turned into hotel rooms and decided to keep the bunker exactly how it was. Today The Greenbrier offers guest a 90-minute tour into the bunker allowing visitors to learn about the construction processes, how it was hidden in plain sight, the employees and the policies set in place in case of a nuclear attack. Peter had learned about the bunker a few years ago in which he was adamant about adding it to our list of stops during our road trip.
The cost of the bunker tour is $39 and tours must be reserved via phone prior to the tour.
The tour takes you into the side of a mountain, although somehow you are still on the second floor which I still don’t understand. There is a stairwell to the basement and a slight step in the intake showers, otherwise, the tour is wheelchair accessible. During the tour, there are also benches and chairs available in dedicated areas for visitors with mobility issues to rest while the tour guide gives their presentation.
Due to the available space in the bunker, it has been offered up for rent to data storage companies. Because of the many computers that house information in the bunker, visitors must check their phones and cameras with the ticket desk prior to the beginning of the tour. All electronics are delivered to visitors at the end of the tour where you are able to take photos in the intake room, cafeteria and bunker doors.
The information provided gives visitors an inside look at how the resort and the government worked together to keep a hidden secret not so hidden, as the intake room was and still is used for trade shows and conferences. Yes, that’s right, before The Washington Post article the intake room, where all members of Congress would meet in the case of a nuclear attack, was utilized to help provide a cover for the purpose of the build. Cars, cruise companies, and many other industries have utilized the space where the true meaning was hidden right under their noses.
During the tour, visitors learn about the secrets behind the build from how it was planned, constructed and then kept hidden from the public for so many years. You will get a chance to walk through the intake showers, sit in the communication and monitoring rooms along with the Governor’s Hall and the basement that houses the power plant and water storage. You will learn how the cafeteria kept the flow of individuals moving instead of standing around as well as how food and supplies were delivered between the resort and bunker.
This is a neat piece of bipartisan history in the United States to protect government officials that can be explored by everyone and it well worth the trip.
What was the bunkers purpose?
In case of a nuclear attack, the American government wanted a safe location that would ensure the survival of Congress. The bunker was maintained by a group of government employees that would help ensure the safety, everyday life and support in case of an attack. During the era of The Cold War, the time between a launch of a nuclear bomb and the actual target destruction was minimally three hours. This gave Congress enough time to leave Washington either via plane, train or automobile to reach the resort where they would be taken into the bunker for safe keeping. The bunker housed congress members and one staff member, while the resort was emptied of guest allowing for family members such as spouses to stay close by.
What did it offer?
The bunker provided congress members not only with safety from the nuclear weapons but decontamination chambers, sleeping locations, a power plant with purification equipment and water storage, diesel fuel storage, hospital beds, medical including dental facilities, lab, pharmacy, cafeteria and meeting rooms for both the House and Senate.
Why was it kept secret?
In 1992, The Washington Post published an article exposing the bunker lead to its decommissioning. One of the main reasons for the secrecy was to help keep it from being a target for nuclear bombs because it was a fall out shelter and not a bomb shelter. The shelter was built to keep Congress safe in the events of war to ensure that decisions about the government and safety of the people continued despite attacks.
The Portly Passengers provides plus size inclusive travel tips and advice for anyone who is looking to explore the world. From seat sizes on airplanes to exploring museums, restaurants, and nature Melissa & Peter have the experience and stories to help guide you through it.