Destinations line Destinations

Stately resort hid Congress' fallout shelter for decades

November 6, 1996

(CNN) -- American political leaders have always had their favorite getaways to escape crowds and public life. However, a top-secret getaway outside Washington also was kept ready for an emergency during the Cold War era, when the threat of nuclear attack loomed.

In the 1950s, a Congressional fallout shelter was constructed at The Greenbrier resort in the hills of West Virginia, 250 miles southwest of Washington, D.C.

The hidden shelter was located in White Sulphur Springs, deep beneath the stately architecture and scenic grounds of The Greenbrier. The shelter was kept stocked until the Cold War began fading in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The $14 million bunker was built under the pretext of adding a new wing to The Greenbrier. For more than 30 years, this national security secret was shared by only the nation's top leaders. Many members of Congress did not even know it existed. The shelter's cover was blown in 1992, and the Defense Department gave up the hiding place.

Now offered as an amenity during a resort stay, thousands of hotel guests have strolled through the tunnels that lead 700 feet into the mountain. Dark hallways snake around an area the size of two football fields, and some of the 18 dormitories are still set up -- ready for what might have been.


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