Hidden in the rolling hills of West Virginia, the United States Congress built a secret nuclear bunker within the nationally acclaimed Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. In light of the Cold War, Congress moved to build this extensive bunker where they could be protected from a nuclear disaster. After the war, pressure from the media led to the location of the bunker to be revealed. The resort has since opened the bunker for tours.
This expansive bunker is housed in
the historic Greenbrier resort. Founded in 1778, the hotel garnered recognition for the healing properties
of their sulfur springs. It gained prestige as important political
figures from the South began to come for yearly trips. During World War II the
resort was leased by the government to house foreign diplomats for several
months and was then converted into a hospital for four years – the hotel's first
stint as a government associate. It was then returned to commercial business 1948 and
transformed into a pro-golf resort.
In December of 1958 construction began on a government-funded Emergency Relocation Center designed to house part of Congress in case
of nuclear disaster during the Cold War. To avoid suspicion, the Greenbrier
Resort simultaneously built a new addition called the West Virginia Wing.
The bunker itself covers approximately 112,000 square
feet, and has walls made out of concrete two feet thick which were reinforced
with steel. The facility is wedged 750
feet into the hillside, helping to mask its presence and offer protection from
missiles. There were four blast doors, the largest measuring fifteen feet high,
twelve feet wide, and nineteen and a half inches thick; it weighs about 28
tons. A grand total of $14 million was spent on construction of the bunker and the West Virginia Wing.
Numerous rooms were built to accommodate Congress,
including space to live and work. The
thick blast doors lead to 18 dormitories which can accommodate 1,100 people,
several decontamination chambers, a cafeteria, a pharmacy, a clinic with 12
hospital beds, meeting rooms for the House and Senate, a power plant with purification
equipment, three 25,000 gallon water storage tanks, three 14,000 gallon diesel
fuel storage tanks and a communications area that includes a TV production
studio and audio-recording booths.
Once completed in 1961, the hotel kept the bunker
stocked with supplies and food for 30 years. Food trucks would come in the dead
of night, and drivers were told they were just delivering food for the hotel. The
delivery men backed their trucks up into the first section of the bunker to
unload their food; this was all they saw of the bunker. The others that worked
and maintained the bunker were told to blend in with the community, to avoid rousing suspicion. The men and women
who ran the bunker worked undercover as hotel employees.
In its thirty years as an up kept, commissioned
government bunker, the closest the Greenbrier Bunker ever came to being used
was in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis,yet it was never put into action. The hidden fortress remained a secret until May 31,
1992, when The Washington Post published
an article exposing the facility. After the article’s release, the Greenbrier
lost its contract with the government and the bunker was decommissioned. Today
the bunker is no longer used by the government, but West Virginia’s nuclear
safe house is now available for public and private tours.