The Greenbrier

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The Greenbrier
North entrance
Location Greenbrier County, near White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Built 1858, 1913
Architect John H.B. Latrobe; et al.
Architectural style Classical Revival, Federal
NRHP Reference # 74002000
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 9, 1974[1]
Designated NHL June 21, 1990[2]

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.[3]

Following years 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.[3][4]

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.

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 the former onsite superintendent.[5][6]


At White Sulphur Springs, 1870

A spring of sulphur water is at the center of the resort property. It issues forth below the green dome of the white-columned springhouse that has been the symbol of The Greenbrier for generations. Beginning in 1778, Mrs. Anderson, a local pioneer, came to follow the local Native American tradition of "taking the waters" to relieve her chronic rheumatism and for the first 125 years the resort was known by the name White Sulphur Springs.

The property soon fell into the hands of a prominent Baltimore family, the Calwells. Under the Calwells, the resort would begin to take shape. They sold cottages, many of which still stand today, to prominent Southern individuals. Notable guests of the time included Martin van Buren and Henry Clay.

In 1858, a hotel was built on the property. The Grand Central Hotel, known by the moniker "The White" and, later, "The Old White", was torn down in 1922, several years after the addition of the current building. During the Civil War, the property changed hands between the Confederate Army and the Union Army, who almost burned the resort to the ground.

Following the Civil War, the resort reopened. It became a place for many Southerners and Northerners alike to vacation, and the setting for many famous post-war reconciliations, including the White Sulphur Manifesto,[7] which was the only political position issued by Robert E. Lee after the Civil War, that advocated the merging of the two societies. The resort went on to become a center of regional post-war society, especially after the arrival of the railroad.

The Greenbrier in 1916

In 1910, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway purchased the resort property, building additional amenities and The Greenbrier Hotel in 1913. At this time, the name officially changed to The Greenbrier, as the neighboring town adopted the name White Sulphur Springs.

During World War II, the resort served both as an army hospital and as a relocation center for some of the Axis diplomats interned as enemies of the United States. At first, these detainees were only German; later, they were joined by Japanese diplomats previously interned at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia. According to one embassy clerk, the Germans looked down on the Japanese and the two groups did not mix well.[8]

After the war ended, C&O bought back the property from the government and reopened the resort, now redecorated by Dorothy Draper. Its reopening was a social event of the season, attracting such luminaries as the Duke of Windsor with his wife, Wallis Simpson, Bing Crosby, and members of the Kennedy family. In recent history, the resort has hosted several presidents and vice-presidents, foreign dignitaries such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco.

Justice family ownership[edit]

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 (200 km2) 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.[9]

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.[10][11][12]

The Casino Club at The Greenbrier[edit]

In November 2008, county voters narrowly approved a local option referendum that would permit casino-style gambling at the hotel. The rules, regulations, and tax rates were signed into law on May 8, 2009. The Justice family has said gambling would be "tasteful" if it were done.[13] The temporary casino named "The Tavern Casino" opened on October 1, 2009. The permanent casino, The Casino Club at The Greenbrier, designed by architect Michael Oliver McClung of Shope Reno Wharton Associates, Norwalk, CT opened on July 2, 2010 with a celebrity gala. Decoration by Carleton Varney of Dorothy Draper & Co., Inc., New York, NY, complements the hotel's historic interiors.

Under the state's regulations, only "guests" of the Greenbrier there may visit the casino. The hotel and state regulators have differed over the definition of "guest", as the casino has persons taking a tour or dining at the resort to visit, without staying in the hotel.[citation needed] In 2013, simulcast horse racing was added to the casino's offerings.

The Bunker[edit]

Main article: Project Greek Island

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",[14] was built at the same time as the West Virginia Wing, an above-ground addition to the hotel, from 1959 to 1962.

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.

Presidents' Cottage Museum[edit]

The back patio of The Greenbrier.

Twenty-six presidents have been hosted at The Greenbrier.[15] The Presidents' Cottage Museum is a two-story building with exhibits about these visits and the history of The Greenbrier. The building is open seasonally.


The resort also has a significant place in golf history. The original 9 holes were designed by Alexander H. Findlay. For the last years of his life, golf legend Sam Snead held the position of the resort's emeritus pro; today, that title is held by the equally legendary Tom Watson.

In 1979, The Greenbrier was the site of the first Ryder Cup contested under the current format of United States against Europe. More recently, The Greenbrier hosted the 1994 Solheim Cup, the women's equivalent to the Ryder Cup. This made The Greenbrier the first of only two locations to have hosted both the Ryder and Solheim Cups; it would be joined in 1998 by Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.

It also hosted an event on what is now known as the Champions Tour between 1987–90.

PGA Tour golf on the regular tour came to the hotel in 2010 with the Greenbrier Classic. After two years of being held on the last weekend of July, the tournament obtained the more favorable date of the first weekend in July, starting in 2012. On March 28, 2011, The Old White Course became a TPC course.[16]

Medical and sports facilities[edit]

The Greenbrier Clinic, adjacent to the hotel, has operated as an executive health facility since 1948. In 1971 it began operating independently from the hotel (although still leasing its facility from The Greenbrier).[17]

In 2011, Justice announced an ambitious plan to construct the Greenbrier Medical Institute, a large-scale medical facility with a projected cost of at least $250 million, planned to be built in five stages. One focus would be a sports medicine facility to be headed by orthopedic surgeon James Andrews.[18] Construction of the first stage began in May 2012. [19]

One stated goal of the project was to establish relationships with professional sports teams, especially a National Football League team that would hold its annual training camp at The Greenbrier. In March 2014, the New Orleans Saints and the hotel reached agreement on a three-year deal. The hotel has committed to build three football fields and other facilities for the Saints, at an estimated cost of $20–25 million, adjacent to the medical facilities. The project will be partially subsidized by tax breaks recently approved by the state legislature with an estimated value of $25 million over 10 years. The relationship between the hotel and the Saints reportedly grew out of a visit by Saints head coach Sean Payton to the 2013 Greenbrier Classic golf tournament to play in its pro-am competition and then to serve as caddy for his friend, PGA Tour golfer Ryan Palmer.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Staff (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "The Greenbrier". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved October 13, 2007. 
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Robert E. Lee (August 26, 1868). "White Sulphur Manifesto". Retrieved August 26, 2010. 
  8. ^ Stewart, William H. (2012). "Diplomats, Disputes & Deceit World War II's First Exchange of Enemy Diplomats". Saipan Stewart. NCC Consulting. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  9. ^ "West Virginia Businessman Buys The Greenbrier". The State Journal (Charleston, WV). May 7, 2009. Retrieved January 23, 2010. 
  10. ^ Hals, Tom (March 19, 2009). "Exclusive US resort Greenbrier files Chapter 11". Reuters. Retrieved April 1, 2009. 
  11. ^ Prada, Paulo (May 8, 2009). "Justice Family in Greenbrier Deal". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 8, 2009. 
  12. ^ "BANKRUPTCY Judge Approves Sale Of Greenbrier Resort". The Washington Post. May 20, 2009. Retrieved May 20, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Manchin signs Greenbrier gambling bill". Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, West Virginia). May 11, 2009. Retrieved January 23, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Tour The Greenbrier Bunker". PBS Documentary. PBS. Retrieved June 18, 2008. 
  15. ^ "Presidents' Cottage Museum". The Greenbrier. Retrieved January 23, 2010. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Jack Bailey, "Greenbrier Clinic offers physicals in resort atmosphere", State Journal, May 20, 1996  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required).
  18. ^ Vicki Smith, "Details of Greenbrier Medical Institute revealed: Planned $250 million facility to include sports medicine and rehab, VIP suites, cosmetic surgery", Charleston Daily Mail, August 25, 2011  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required).
  19. ^ Tina Alvey, "Phase I of institute construction set to begin", The Register-Herald, May 17, 2012 (subscription required).
  20. ^ Kate White & David Gutman, "NFL's Saints to train at The Greenbrier: Resort constructing 3 fields, facilities for Super Bowl XLIV champs", The Charleston Gazette, March 13, 2014.


  • The History of The Greenbrier: America's Resort by Robert Conte

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°47′07″N 80°18′30″W / 37.7854°N 80.3083°W / 37.7854; -80.3083