Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daytripping: Southern Charm Atop a Cold War Bunker

Experience antebellum elegance and echoes of the Cold War at West Virginia’s Greenbrier Resort.




 

From its inception, the United States’ Continuity of Government program was considered among the most classified of subjects. In the 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, the threat of a major military confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union led to fears of how the U.S. government would maintain order in the event of a nuclear attack on Washington, D.C. To ensure that the government would continue to operate, a bold plan was enacted: At first warning of an imminent attack, the 535 members of Congress (100 senators, 435 representatives) and a small number of staff would be transported to a secret location away from the nation’s capital.

Enter the Greenbrier Resort.
 


12 Oaks Whiskey Bar
 

Above ground, The Greenbrier is 11,000 acres of grand architecture, hospitality and Southern charm in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. Since 1778, the resort has welcomed guests (including 26 U.S. presidents) who come to enjoy the mineral spa, championship golf courses, restaurants and shops, Art Colony, 710 resort rooms and Casino Club. The resort was decorated by noted designer Dorothy Draper in 1946, using bold florals, bright colors, and her signature green-and-white striped wallpaper. (Carleton Varney, Draper’s protégé, continues as the resort’s decorator and curator.)
 


Sitting area outside the main dining room
 

Below ground, buried 720 feet into a hillside below the West Virginia Wing of the Greenbrier, stands the 112,000-square-foot, two-story Cold War Bunker, designed to hide in plain site below the resort. Construction began in 1958, and the final equipment was installed in 1962. For the next 30 years, the bunker sat ready to accommodate members of Congress in times of catastrophe. (The emergency relocation site for the president and the executive branch was located in a secret spot elsewhere.)
 


Bunker cafeteria
 

The bunker contains sparse, scaled-down versions of the Senate and House chambers and military-style camp bedding and showers. (No photography is permitted.) To aid in the secrecy of the project, the bunker was intentionally located beneath the resort to disguise the level of activity required to maintain it. Self-contained electrical, plumbing and waste-disposal systems were put in place, and fresh food was routed from the resort to supplement stores of MREs (meals, ready-to-eat).

For 30 years, the facility was kept in a constant state of readiness, hidden from the public, until an article in the Washington Post Magazine in May 1992 exposed the project. Government sources had leaked details of the bunker’s existence, and it was deemed that national security would not be threatened by public knowledge of the facility. Over time, the immediacy of a nuclear threat had reduced the warning time from hours to minutes, so a mass transport of 500-plus personnel was deemed ineffectual.

Today, visitors to Greenbrier can see the Bunker on group or private tours.
 


Harris's hawk
 

For a different sort of adventure, don’t miss the falconry tour. Greenbrier boasts a small flock of birds of prey, including hawks, falcons and owls. A guide will take you and your group on a short nature walk to demonstrate the bird’s hunting skills. The best part? Donning a leather glove, holding a treat in the air and having the bird land on your hand to eat it. Don’t expect a workout — our Harris’s hawk weighed less than 2 pounds.
 


The Chapel
 

Afternoons at Greenbrier are for shopping, with a variety of boutiques (apparel, toys, handbags, Christmas, golf, kitchen) in the main resort as well as leather, home accessories, furniture, jewelry and fine art at the Art Colony. Nights are for dining; the elegant main dining room is a Southern mansion come to life, while specialty restaurants offer more eclectic offerings (steak at Prime 44 West, casual fare at Draper’s, Italian at The Forum).

Not bad for bunker life.  
 


Travelers have “taken the waters” at Greenbrier for more than 200 years, believing in the mineral springs’ curative powers. The resort’s spa features 42 treatment rooms with services including sulphur-soak, massage, hydrotherapy and manicures. The indoor pool is adjacent to the mineral spa and was remodeled by Dorothy Draper.
 

Find it
On the Web: greenbrier.com
Drive Time: 5 hours
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Fish nor Fowl Now Taking Reservations

The new restaurant from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group will soft-open later this week.

New Book Makes Crafters the 'Life of the Party'

The newest book from Lily & Val owner Valerie McKeehan includes more than 100 hand-drawn, tear-out paper cards, menus and tags that can be used for hosting a gathering.

"You Are My Friend" Looking for Extras in Pittsburgh

The Tom Hanks-led film will begin production in the Pittsburgh area this fall.

Perfect Presentations: Our Cookie Table Contest Winner and Runners-Up

These couples took the classic cookie table and made it their own with beautiful — and delicious — displays.

Come and Explore Wilkinsburg’s Divine History

The Sacred Spaces Tour takes visitors to the borough’s churches, mosques and historic buildings.

Waste Not: Kelly Lane's Fashion Designs are Eco-Chic

After noting how much fabric ends up in landfills, Pittsburgh designer Kelly Simpson-Scupelli found a way to incorporate the unused scraps into her fashion line.

Three Rivers Champion: Sloane Davidson

Davidson started an organization that gives refugee and immigrant families aid based on real, person-to-person relationships, not transactions.

The 400-Word Review: Alpha

The prehistoric drama is here to answer a question no one asked about the world's first-ever dog.

“Night of the Living Dead” to Appear on the Big Screen Again

The cult classic will be screened at the Byham Theater in honor of the 50th anniversary of its debut.

The 400-Word Review: Crazy Rich Asians

The light romcom is made for pleasing audiences — and in that respect, it succeeds.

Enix Brewing Company Set to Open in Homestead

Owners David and Victor Rodriguez also operate two breweries in Madrid, Spain.

Revisiting Fat Head's

The South Side stalwart punches above its weight thanks to good beer and gigantic sandwiches.

In Ben They Trust

Going into his 15th professional season, Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger remains the key to a successful season.

PM on KD: The Fall Weddings Issue

PM Associate Editor Lauren Davidson appears on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live to talk about the fall Weddings issue.

The Airbnb of Camping Has Started Pitching Tents in Pennsylvania

The startup Tentrr connects landowners looking for extra cash with interested campers.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


"You Are My Friend" Looking for Extras in Pittsburgh

"You Are My Friend" Looking for Extras in Pittsburgh

The Tom Hanks-led film will begin production in the Pittsburgh area this fall.

Comments

Come and Explore Wilkinsburg’s Divine History

Come and Explore Wilkinsburg’s Divine History

The Sacred Spaces Tour takes visitors to the borough’s churches, mosques and historic buildings.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Fish nor Fowl Now Taking Reservations

Fish nor Fowl Now Taking Reservations

The new restaurant from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group will soft-open later this week.

Comments

Enix Brewing Company Set to Open in Homestead

Enix Brewing Company Set to Open in Homestead

Owners David and Victor Rodriguez also operate two breweries in Madrid, Spain.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
6 Best Places to Get Your Nostalgia Fix in Pittsburgh

6 Best Places to Get Your Nostalgia Fix in Pittsburgh

Ah, the good old days. They may be gone, but there are still a few places where you can get a blast from the past.

Comments

The Eight Best Frozen Treats in Pittsburgh

The Eight Best Frozen Treats in Pittsburgh

Our dining critic picks his favorite ice cream, ice pop, frozen custard, vegan delight and more.

Comments


Revisiting Fat Head's

Revisiting Fat Head's

The South Side stalwart punches above its weight thanks to good beer and gigantic sandwiches.

Comments

TopGolf is Big, Ridiculous, Still Fun

TopGolf is Big, Ridiculous, Still Fun

The new driving-range game is way over the top, but the game it's offering is fun and they'll ensure you have a good time.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
In Ben They Trust

In Ben They Trust

Going into his 15th professional season, Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger remains the key to a successful season.

Comments

Steelers’ Saint Vincent Saga Even More Inspiring This Summer

Steelers’ Saint Vincent Saga Even More Inspiring This Summer

Ryan Shazier's battle back from a paralyzing injury last season and his subsequent rehabilitation from spinal stabilization surgery is a more compelling saga than the Steelers’ quest to reach Super Bowl LIII.​

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Alpha

The 400-Word Review: Alpha

The prehistoric drama is here to answer a question no one asked about the world's first-ever dog.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Crazy Rich Asians

The 400-Word Review: Crazy Rich Asians

The light romcom is made for pleasing audiences — and in that respect, it succeeds.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Perfect Presentations: Our Cookie Table Contest Winner and Runners-Up

Perfect Presentations: Our Cookie Table Contest Winner and Runners-Up

These couples took the classic cookie table and made it their own with beautiful — and delicious — displays.

Comments

Vintage Details Give Weddings Classic Feel

Vintage Details Give Weddings Classic Feel

Combining the old and the new, these couples used their vintage details to create a modern-yet-elegant wedding day.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
New Book Makes Crafters the 'Life of the Party'

New Book Makes Crafters the 'Life of the Party'

The newest book from Lily & Val owner Valerie McKeehan includes more than 100 hand-drawn, tear-out paper cards, menus and tags that can be used for hosting a gathering.

Comments

Painting Made Simple: Paintzen Launches in Pittsburgh

Painting Made Simple: Paintzen Launches in Pittsburgh

Partnering with PPG Paints, the company uses an online platform to match customers with professional painters and provide supplies.

Comments