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

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Aug. 16 2013 12:14 PM

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

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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. 

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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:


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