There is a fascinating place in West Virginia at the Greenbrier Resort. It is called The Bunker, a hidden facility built during the Cold War to accommodate both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. The Bunker was kept in a state of readiness and deep secrecy for over thirty years in preparation for a national emergency. Completely unaware of a gigantic fallout shelter the size of a Walmart right under their feet, wealthy aristocrats and the elite, bankers, industrialists and government advisers gathered to enjoy the amenities of the magnificent resort. Even the builders hired to construct a new wing for the Greenbrier, had no idea of the magnitude of the project.
And I was there last week!
My brother and sister-in-law were visiting and we decided to explore the grand old Greenbrier Resort, have lunch and take the bunker tour. We were not disappointed.
The facility is replete with fabulous amenities like swimming pools, theaters, a bowling alley, horseback riding, clay shooting, ping pong, golf, glamorous meeting rooms, ballrooms, and exquisite décor, and even a Monte Carlo style casino. We didn’t do any of these things, but would you believe I wish I had taken pictures of the bathrooms? The public bathrooms were so luxurious they even had private sinks in each stall!
But hidden in plain sight and buried 720 feet into a hillside under a wing of this gorgeous hotel, is a facility that was built between 1958 and 1961 (during the Eisenhower administration) as a secret home for the United States Congress.
Over thirty years later,in May 1992, the secret bunker was revealed in a published story in The Washington Post.
So, the secret of The Greenbrier Bunker is out!
And that’s why we could take the guided tour.
There are three entrances protected by large steel and concrete doors designed to withstand a nuclear blast and to prevent radioactive fallout. One door weighs about 25 tons and is 12 feet wide, 10 feet high and 18 inches thick. Imagine?
The Bunker has 44 separate locations with 153 rooms for a total of 112,544 square feet on two levels. There is a self-contained power plant that could sustain 1,100 people for up to 40 days.
The kitchen had stockpiled provisions for 60 days. There were 18 dormitories with metal bunk beds and each could accommodate 60 persons. There was a clinic with cutting edge medical equipment and supplies, and a kitchen designed to feed 400 people in one seating.
There is an auditorium that was to be the floor of the House of Representatives and you can still see the metal attachments on the backs of the seats where they could attach microphones for recording the business of the House.
And there is more – lots more!
Our tour was absolutely fascinating even though we were told we were not seeing the entire bunker. A major part of it is now used as a secure data storage facility.
The declassified Bunker at the Greenbrier is a time-traveler’s way to experience American history. Carved deep into the mountainside beneath a grand old hotel is an emergency fallout shelter that was once a top secret U.S. government relocation facility for Congress.
But the Greenbrier Bunker is now open to anyone interested in taking a look behind the hidden doors that now let you in to explore another world and another time.
Information on Bunker Tours:
History Channel Video: The President’s Secret Bunker
Note: The statistical details above were taken from a pamphlet entitled Project Greek Island (an original code name for the bunker) distributed to tour participants by the Greenbrier Resort.