Secret Shelter at the Greenbrier is worth a visit

A Day Away By Mike Steely

When I was stationed in Washington, D.C., in the late 1960s I kept hearing stories of a secret shelter for members of Congress. I remember traveling back and forth from Coast Guard headquarters to the Treasury Department, being handed documents, and then catching an underground transport over to the Pentagon. I delivered whatever I was carrying to a desk there and took the same shuttle back to the Treasury.

I remember thinking that the secret shelter might be located far underground somewhere along the under-the-river route. That secret shelter remained in my thoughts for many years after I was discharged.

In 1992 The Washington Post published a story about the bunker, exposing its existence and location in a West Virginia hotel, and the government had to shut it down.

Back about 20 years ago, my wife and I made a side trip to the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The hotel is a grand place, with lovely gardens, a swanky restaurant and many other expensive features. But that secret shelter was our objective and we toured the underground facility with a group of like-minded visitors. Where the current shelter is located now is  top-secret but the bunker beneath the Greenbrier is fascinating, curious, and exists yet today.

The Greenbrier is about four hours northeast of Knoxville along I-81 to Wytheville, Virginia, and then north on I-77 to Highway 460 to Highway 219 and then east to White Sulphur Springs. It’s a beautiful drive and a good side trip if you’re headed to the Washington, D.C., area.

Constructed during the Cold War, the underground bunker was dubbed “Project Greek Island.” It contains 18 dormitories, a power plant, diesel fuel tanks, a 25-ton blast door, four secret doors, a communications area including a TV production room, a 12-bed hospital with operating rooms, a laboratory, a pharmacy and a cafeteria.

Built to house about 1,100 selected people, it was completed in 1961 and maintained daily by a crew. Hotel guests at the Greenbrier had no idea the facility was there.

The hotel began offering tours of the facility for $47 for adults and $24 for youths. When we toured it, no cameras were allowed. That prohibition now includes cell phones or electronic equipment.

You can find the Greenbrier Hotel and the bunker tour online or call for information at 844-837-2466. You do not need to be a guest at the hotel to tour the secret bunker.