West Virginia's Ritzy Greenbrier Resort Conceals a Cold War-Era Nuclear Bunker

Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Aug. 16 2013 12:14 PM

West Virginia's Ritzy Greenbrier Resort Conceals a Cold War-Era Nuclear Bunker

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a new travel blog. Like us on FacebookTumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

Guests staying at the luxury Greenbrier resort during the 1960s often saw TV repair men walking around the west wing of the hotel. What they didn't know was that these apparent audiovisual maintenance men were actually government employees tasked with tending to the secret on-site nuclear bunker.

The "government relocation facility," known in its infancy as "Project Greek Island" began in the late 1950s with a proposal from the Eisenhower administration. Suspicious of the Soviet Union and its stockpile of nuclear weapons, the government approached the Greenbriar, the hotel of choice for presidents past, to create a fallout shelter for members of congress. In 1959, the hotel began work on its West Virginia Wing, an addition that incorporated the bunker. 


Completed just in time for the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the facility contained dormitories -- with name-tagged bunk beds for congress members -- a clinic, a decontamination chamber, and a television broadcast center with a large, soothing backdrop of Capitol Hill. Some of the shelter’s 53 rooms were hidden in plain sight. The Greenbrier’s seemingly standard, publicly accessible Exhibition Hall and meeting rooms were actually part of the bunker. In the event of nuclear attack, concealed blast doors would seal off the rooms from the outside world, allowing members of government to rule the country safely.

The Greenbrier’s congressional fallout shelter was never used for its intended purpose. In 1992, journalist Ted Gup revealed the secret facility in an article for the Washington Post, resulting in its decommissioning.

Much of the bunker is now a private data storage facility, but a section is open to visitors by guided tour. The drab, utilitarian furnishings are quite the contrast to the five-star rooms directly overhead.

Underground Cold War sites:

View The Greenbrier in a larger map



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Never Remember Anything
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.