Saturday, November 05, 2011

Six Minutes to Midnight at the Greenbriar Hotel

The Greenbrier Resort of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, was built in 1913 and has hosted 26 presidents and countless VIPs from nearby Washington. However, the hotel is available for ordinary citizens as well. For a mere $295.00, you too can relax for two nights in their "standard room." Sadly, this deal does not include access to the casino, golf course, tennis courts, and shooting ranges offered to the more important clients, but perhaps your mere proximity will allow for a luxury contact-high.

Until fairly recently, the Greenbrier had other exclusive amenities to offer its clients. In fact, it had an entire wing on call for the members of congress. Constructed in 1959, this section came with two-foot thick, steel-reinforced doors with three mechanical locks each.

It was also built underground. All the better to avoid the fallout.

Known as "Project Greek Island" or "the Bunker," this section was an enormous bomb-shelter intended to keep congress safe during a nuclear war to ensure "continuity of leadership." As New York and Washington burned with atomic fire, these men would be whisked away to the Greenbrier "relocation center" and there they would stay until the radiation had subsided. The facility was equipped with two distinct chambers for the House and Senate, and a connection to a nearby radio-tower so they could broadcast their legislative progress to whatever remnants of American society remained alive above ground. Thanks to gargantuan stores of food (and the alcoholic beverages so crucial in the political process), congress could stay in Bunker for years. The place even had a "pathological waste incinerator" to dispose of the dead.

While the Bunker is known to have been on high-readiness during the Cuban Missile Crisis (and conceivably on several other occasions during the Cold War), its existence was kept secret until its exposure by the Washington Post in 1992. Throughout its operational life, the Bunker was overseen by a group that operated out of the resort under the cover story that they were contractors belonging to the "Forsythe Associates."  Nevertheless, despite this secrecy and the cooperation of the Greenbrier employees, it was impossible to completely conceal the Bunker and its true purpose, and unconfirmed reports of a government base spread through the White Sulphur Springs area like the flu.

When the bombs started to fall, security guards were ordered to refuse admission to anyone but congressional members and the corresponding personnel. If hotel employees or other guests tried to get in, they were to be shot. This may seem severe, but order had to be maintained. Perhaps as a consolation effort, all of the White Sulphur Springs areas was eventually designated to receive some 45,000 nuclear refugees in the event of war. No shelter was provided for them though. They were expected to pack their own camping tents and weather the fallout in the great can-do tradition of patriots everywhere. The Bunker was exclusive until the end.

Would you like to know more?

-Read the Washington Post article that started it all
-Visit the Greenbrier Hotel's official website
-Check out the PBS documentary

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