The Long, Storied History of the Greenbrier Resort

TheGreenbrier-North

The Greenbrier is a Forbes four-star and AAA Five Diamond Award winning luxury resort located just outside the town of White Sulphur Springs in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, United States.

For most of its history, the hotel was owned by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway and its successors, including the CSX Corporation. Before its most recent purchase and sale, the hotel was operated by CSX Hotels, Inc., a subsidiary of the CSX Corporation.

Following a year of heavy losses, CSX placed the hotel into bankruptcy in 2009. Justice Family Group, LLC, a company owned by local entrepreneur Jim Justice, subsequently bought the property and guaranteed all debts, resulting in dismissal of the bankruptcy. Justice has promised to return the hotel to its former status as a five-star resort and to introduce “tasteful” gambling for guests as a revenue enhancer. The Greenbrier Hotel Corp. today operates as a subsidiary of Justice’s company.

The last U.S. president to stay at The Greenbrier during his presidency was Dwight Eisenhower. A total of 26 presidents have stayed at The Greenbrier.

Bunker entrance

Bunker entrance


The Greenbrier is also the site of a massive underground bunker that was meant to serve as an emergency shelter for the United States Congress during the Cold War. It was code named “Project Greek Island” and Fritz Bugas was former onsite superintendent.

On March 20, 2009, the resort filed for bankruptcy, listing debt of up to $500 million and assets of $100 million. The resort lost $166 million in 2008. Pending court and regulatory approval, the resort was to be sold to the Marriott hotel chain (which has operated it), contingent upon significant concessions from the unions and approval of $50 million in financing from CSX.

On May 7, 2009, the Justice family of West Virginia publicly claimed that it had purchased the resort for $20 million. The Justice family, headed by patriarch James Justice, has extensive farm and milling operations in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina including 50,000 acres that it farms through its Justice Family Farms group headquartered in Beckley, West Virginia. In early 2009, it sold its Bluestone Coal Corporation network of West Virginia coal mines to Mechel.

The Marriott Corporation asserted that it had a valid contract to purchase the hotel, and expected to see that contract honored. However, Justice ultimately settled with Marriott, and the bankruptcy judge dismissed the case on May 19, 2009, clearing the way for Justice’s purchase of the property.

Bunker dormitory

Bunker dormitory

In the late 1950s, the U.S. government approached The Greenbrier for assistance in creating a secret emergency relocation center to house Congress in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. The classified, underground facility, named “Project Greek Island”, was built at the same time as the West Virginia Wing, an above-ground addition to the hotel, from 1959 to 1962.

Bunker rations

Bunker rations

Although the bunker was kept stocked with supplies for 30 years, it was never actually used as an emergency location, even during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The bunker’s existence was not acknowledged until Ted Gup of The Washington Post revealed it in a 1992 story; immediately after the Post story, the government decommissioned the bunker. The facility has since been renovated and is also used as a data storage facility for the private sector. It is featured as an attraction in which visitors can tour the now declassified facilities, known as The Bunker.

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