The Greenbrier Resort and American History

Posted by Kathy & Seymour Fineman on Friday, May 23rd, 2014 at 12:32pm.

The Greenbrier Resort

The Greenbriar is a National Historic Landmark in White Sulphur Springs, West Virgina, as well as a magnificent world-renown golf resort that traces its historic roots back to 1778.  Although the Greenbrier golf courses were built many years after the Civil War, this great old hotel which was originally constructed around the healing springs has quite a military history which has impacted tens of thousands of veterans.  The golf history of this remarkable golf resort is fascinating, but on this Memorial Day weekend, we'll focus on its military service.

During the Civil War, the hotel served as a headquarters for both the Union and the Confederate armies but obviously not at the same time. You may remember that West Virginia sided with the Union, but The Greenbrier was and probably always will be considered symbolic of Confederate and Southern luxury.  Of interest is that the Greenbrier resort was host to a reunion of officers from both the Confederacy and the Union just three short years after the Civil War ended.  General Robert E. Lee himself attended this reunion. 

In the early 1900s, the resort's owners, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway commissioned Charles Blair Macdonald, the most prominent golf architect of the time to design the 18 hole golf course now known as The Old White Course.  Old White had been the long-standing nickname of the hotel.  Much has been written about the Greenbrier's golf legacy, but its military service is paramount this weekend.

The Greenbrier has a prominent place in World War II history for veterans.  In 1941, immediately after the US entered World War II,  the US State Department  leased the Greenbrier for many months.  The State Department then relocated hundreds of Japanese, German and Italian diplomats and their families from Washington DC to the resort until they could exchange these foreign diplomats for the US diplomats stranded overseas by the war.  By late 1942, the US Army purchased the hotel and converted it into a 2,000 bed Army surgical hospital and rehabilitation center called Ashford.  According to Greenbrier records, Ashford admitted and cared for over 24,100 patients during World War II.  Impressive indeed.  

Following the war , the Railway reacquired the hotel and when it reopened in 1948, Sam Snead was golf pro back where his career began in the 1930s and where he helped establish the Greenbrier's reputation as one of the world's most prestigious golf resorts which it still maintains today.

Military intrigue again circled the Greenbrier at the height of the Cold War.  On Greenbrier property in West Virginia, the United States built a top secret government relocation facility complete with highly classified underground bomb shelter and bunker to house Congress in case of war in the 1950s. The codename was Project Greek Island and this top secret facility was maintained in a constant state of readiness for over 30 years.  When its existence was exposed at the end of the Cold War by the media, the project was terminated and the bomb shelter and bunker were decommissioned.  

On this Memorial Day weekend, we'd like to recognize The Greenbrier for its historic significance to American Veterans.  God bless America and thanks to all the Veterans for their service.

contributed by Kathy Fineman

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