Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Easter Egg Hunt and Bunker Tour

Another amazing breakfast in Greenbrier's Main Dining Room. Eggs and bacon with fresh salsa, peaches and cream drizzled with raspberry coulis, and peppermint tea to drink.

After breakfast, day two of our stay at Greenbrier started off with a fun Easter egg hunt! There were fun Easter activities all weekend long, today there were two eggs hunts, one for adults in the morning and one for children in the afternoon. I loved how many adults showed up for the morning egg hunt, it was hard to get pictures of it because it was a crazy, mad dash and was over in a matter of a few chaotic seconds.

There were hundreds of eggs spread all over the front lawn of the resort, we could all gather 8-10 colored eggs and one golden egg each. The golden eggs were hidden in slightly harder spots than the rest of the eggs, I found mine in a tree.

I would have loved to have a whole photo shoot with our adorable eggs with the flowers and the resort in the background but we were short on time, so all I could get was a quick pick of my eggs in the complimentary plastic bag we were given before the hunt

A slightly better photo of my golden egg. Inside each golden egg was a number, we then all filed back into one of the large meeting rooms were there were lots of tables with assigned number ranges. We found the table with our number to collect special prizes

The prizes were quite varied and a little random ... dad got a coupon for a 50% off one chicken quesadilla at JJ's Grill, and I won a $25 match play coupon for the casino. Major score.

After claiming our prizes, we took a 90 minute tour of the underground bunker. Carved deep into the mountainside beneath the West Virginia Wing is an emergency Cold War fallout shelter. Once a top secret U.S. government relocation facility for Congress, The Bunker is now open for anyone to tour. 

Today, it's known as "The Bunker" but the official name was the U.S. Government Relocation facility, also dubbed "Project Greek Island" when it was built from 1958-1961.

That was during the height of the Cold War, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the leaders of Congress wanted a safe place where the U.S. government could continue to function in the event of a national emergency. Eisenhower's affection for the resort, where he recuperated during World War II and was a frequent visitor, coupled with its secluded location in the Allegheny Mountains and relative proximity to Washington, D.C., made The Greenbrier a perfect fit.

The top-secret, two-story facility was built 720 feet in the hillside under the West Virginia Wing of The Greenbrier which was built to disguise the construction of the bunker. When it was finished, there was room for 1,100 people -- all the members of the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as key staff -- with a self-sustaining infrastructure and enough provisions for up to 60 days, including all the current medications of every member of the Senate and House of Representatives. 

The bunker was maintained, fully functional, for the next 30 years until in May of 1992 a story in the Washington Post revealed its existence. Since the facility had been compromised, it was no longer useful to the government and the lease with The Greenbrier ended three years later.

The bunker consisted of 153 rooms -- many of which were actually hidden in plain sight at The Greenbrier. The exhibition hall, for example, used by so many conventions over the years would have been turned into offices for the government officials. The walls were between 3-5 feet thick, constructed of reinforced concrete, and the facility covered 112,544 square feet. Another 20-60 feet of dirt separated the top of the bunker from the floor of the West Virginia Wing.

Once the congressmen and senators got to the facility, they would have been taken to the decontamination area. There they would have stripped and been given new clothes and toiletries -- all the same issue. Their clothes and any personal effects would be burned in an incinerator to avoid infection.

The government officials would sleep in bunk beds in one of 18 different dormitories, each housing 60 people who shared wall lockers. The communal lounges had TVs and couches, some even had exercise equipment, and the d├ęcor was occasionally updated during the three decades the bunker remained operational.

To maintain communication with their constituents, who presumably would need reassurance during the time of crisis, the facility featured a TV production room as well as multiple radio booths. On one wall is a huge color photo of the Capitol. The pols could stand in front of it to give viewers back home the illusion that Washington was still standing. The trees in the photo bear green leaves indicating that it’s spring or summer, but there were alternatives, they could even change the colors of the leaves in the picture.

This is one of the four doors leading into the bunker, it is10 feet high and 12 feet wide. It is filled with concrete and weighs 25 tons. It protects one of the entrances to the bunker and was designed to withstand a nuclear explosion 15 miles away.

This is the large kitchen and eating hall. They started out with C-rations, then they went to freeze-dried food, then MREs—Meals Ready to Eat. They always stored enough food to feed 535 hungry pols and their aides for 60 days. And everything has a shelf life, so it was all rotated in and out, and this went on for 30 years.”

All was maintained on the ready for 30 years -- thanks, in part, to the Forsyth Associates, a group of government employees who blended seamlessly into The Greenbrier landscape, thought to be TV and telephone repairmen.  An article written by Ted Gup, who never revealed the name of the government official who had tipped him off, was the reason Project Greek Island was declassified in May of 1992. Gup wasn't spot-on in every regard but he had a lot of details correct -- even contacting the Ohio company that made the three 25-ton steel and concrete blast doors that secured the facility.

The space is now used by a data storage company, and no one is allowed to take photos while on the tour, we had to surrender our phones to our guide before entering.

What an unexpected, fascinating part of The Greenbrier's history. I had never heard of the bunker and had no knowledge of it's existence before our stay.  I was completely blown away by it's history and story.

After exiting the bunker we were lead to this adorable yellow lobby area. This was yet another part of the hotel we hadn't seen yet, and it may be one of my favorite rooms. It's just too fun.

Before dinner, we took a little stroll around the gardens. We would always pass by the cute little candy stand on our way to the gardens, it had tons of adorable easter offerings. 

They sky was gorgeous and dramatic. The weather reports had been threatening rain all weekend, luckily we never felt a drop.

I love looking for dogwood trees and blossoms while in the south.

Remnants of the children's easter egg hunt, apparently the kids didn't want to climb the hill to get the eggs, cause most of these were still full of candy. We may have pocketed a few...

My favorite view of The Greenbrier, in the words of John Denver,

"West Virginia, almost heaven"

For dinner, we dined at Draper's which is named after the hotel's decorator, Dorothy Draper. The restaurant was located on the lower level, a whole floor we hadn't even seen yet!

This adorable ice cream parlor is located in the front of the restaurant.

Draper's menu is full of southern dishes, we got fried green tomatoes for the table and I ordered chicken and waffles as my main course.

My dad LOVES dessert, he also loves ice cream, so he was excited to order Draper's famous banana split. We were all surprised by how big it was! Dad enlisted my mom and me to help him out, and it was delicious!

The casino is located right next to Draper's, we had seen pictures of the decor and knew it was spectacular, so we couldn't resist popping in to see this one of a kind casino.

My dad had never gambled one cent in his entire life, so I convinced him to do a few runs on the slot machines. Neither of us have any ideas how slots work, so we instantly lost our pennies but it was still some good giggles.

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