The Greenbrier Resort dates back to the late 18th century, when visitors to the area would take the waters of the local spring that contained minerals believed to restore health. In the years leading up to the Civil War, the resort was a gathering place for Southern politicians and hosted five sitting U.S. Presidents and influential families.
The first guest came
to White Sulphur Springs in 1778. They visited the spring to “take the waters”
and restore their health. It was in the 1830s the resort first became
prominent. Politicians, judges, editors, lawyers, diplomats, ministers,
planters and merchants, most who came from the South, made annual trips to meet
at the “village in the wilderness”. Their trips to the resort took place during
the summer. The reason for this is the 2,000 foot elevation of the resort which
offered the travelers relief from the lowlands heat and humidity.
Between 1830 and
1861 there were five sitting presidents who stayed at the resort. In 1858, due
to White Sulphur Springs’ success the first large hotel, named the Grand
Central Hotel (also known as “The Old White”) was constructed. From 1861-1865
the resort closed due to the Civil War. The grounds were occupied by both Union
and Confederate troops who used the hotel as a hospital and military
headquarters. Not long after the end of the war the resort reopened.
geographic location in the Appalachians, it was, and still is difficult to
differentiate its allegiance between the North and the South. The newly built
central hotel was a popular place for northerners and southerners alike to
vacation. During the civil war, the hotel was nearly destroyed by changing
ownership from the Confederate Army to the Union Army. When the Civil War ended, the resort reopened. Once again, it was a popular place for
northerners and southerners to vacation. From a cultural standpoint, this is
important to consider because many places were deemed either Northern OR
Southern in culture and visitation. Most importantly, Robert E Lee delivered
the White Sulphur Manifesto here which called for the unification of
both societies, North and South, after the war.
In 1873 the
Chesapeake and Ohio Railway was completed and improved the resorts prospects.
In an effort to expand, the C&O purchased the resort property in 1910. The
Greenbrier Hotel was added by the C&O in 1913. They also added a Mineral
Bath Department and an 18-hole golf course. Charles Blair, the most prominent
contemporary golf architect of the time designed the golf course with is now called
The Old White Course.
In 1914 the Greenbrier opened for the first time year round.
President Woodrow Wilson and his wife spent their holiday here while Joseph and
Rose Kennedy travelled from Boston to spend their October honeymoon at The
Greenbrier. In the 1920s The Greenbrier became a traveling network within high
society. The network stretched all the way from Palm Beach, Florida to Newport,
Rhode Island. In 1922 the Old White Hotel was removed from the property. Its
removal led to the rebuilding of The Greenbrier Hotel in 1930. The renovation
created more space, adding twice as many guest rooms which increased the number
to 500. The hotel’s main entrance was redesigned by an architect from
Cleveland, Ohio named Philip Small. Small added the Virginia Wing (inspired by
Mount Vernon) and the North Entrance façade.
In 1941, after the United States entry into World War II,
the hotel was leased out to the U.S. State Department for seven months. German,
Japanese, and Italian diplomats, along with their families, were moved from
Washington, D.C. to The Greenbrier until exchanges for U.S. Diplomats stranded
overseas were completed. A year later, in 1942 the U.S. Army purchased the
hotel and converted it into a hospital with 2,000 beds. The hospital became
known as Ashford General Hospital and over a four year period, over 24,000
soldiers were admitted and treated in the surgical and rehabilitation center.
The C&O Railway took the hotel back in 1946 after the
U.S. government was done using it. The C&O commissioned for the interior to
be redecorated by a noted designed named Dorothy Draper. After its renovation
The Greenbrier reopened in 1948. It was not long until the U.S. government
would ask for The Greenbrier to assist them once again. In 1950 they ask the
hotel to allow the construction of an Emergency Relocation Center (bunker or
bomb shelter) for Congress to occupy in the event that a war broke out. The
underground facility was built along with an above ground addition to the hotel
called the West Virginia Wing. The bunker remained ready in case of an
emergency for thirty years. The project was terminated in 1992 and the bunker
decommissioned after the Cold War ended and the project was exposed by the
The Greenbrier Course was redesigned in 1978 by Jack
Nicklaus, allowing it to be ready for the 1979 Ryder Cup Matches. The course
has also served as the venue for three PGA Senior tournaments in the 1980s and
the Solheim Cup competition in 1994. In 1999 Bob Cupp redesigned, rerouted and
upgraded the older Lakeside Course creating the new Meadows Course. The project
also created a new Gold Academy. Custom designed home neighborhoods were
created by the Greenbrier Sporting Club beginning in 2000. These homes included
a panoramic view of the Allegheny Mountains. In 2004 the infinity edge outdoor
pool was opened also offering a breathtaking view of the Allegheny’s.
The Old White Course was revamped by Lester George who
created a challenging new version of the old course in 2006. The Greenbrier
changed ownership on May 7, 2009 when Jim Justice, an entrepreneur from West
Virginia bought the resort from the CSX Corporation (successor of the Chessie
System and the C&O). In August 2009 construction was set to build a casino
and The Casino Club at The Greenbrier opened on July 2, 2010. Also in 2010, Mr.
Jim Justice arranged for the PGA Tour to be relocated with a multi-year
contract under the name The Greenbrier Classic. The first Greenbrier Classic
was held July 26-August 1, 2010.
On March 28, 2011 The Old White became a Tournament Players
Club Network course. The Greenbrier
Champions Tennis Classic held in September 2012 was won by Pete Sampras. Two
years later, in April 2014 Sampras was named The Greenbrier’s first Tennis Pro
Emeritus. In July 2014, the New Orleans Saints relocated their training camp to
The Greenbrier and in June 2015 the Center Court at Creekside professional
tennis stadium was opened.