Goldenseal 27Institute of Architects told me thatthe firm was out of business, but heknew a woman in town who usedto work for them. I called her.Not long into our conversation,she started to tell me how back inthe early 1960’s members of the firmwould come back from The Green- brier with stories that a huge holewas being dug in order to build avery large government bunker. Oh,it was a giant project, she said, andit was all part of building the WestVirginia Wing. I remember feelingquite nervous as she went on. WhenI hung up the phone, I stared intothe distance and thought to myself,“What am I going to do with thisinformation?” She had told methings I was not supposed to know.A couple of days later, I wassitting in the employee cafeteria.As everyone else left the table, Iwas soon sitting across from Jack Horton, a senior Greenbrier execu-tive. Jack was always one of myfavorite people, and we shared aninterest in history. Once we werealone he said, “Bob, we don’t callCleveland.” I had made a couple of long-distance phone calls withoutusing the toll-free line, so I thoughtthis was a reminder to follow cor-rect telephone procedure.He repeated, “Bob, we don’t callCleveland.” It then dawned on methat he was referring to the callwith the woman who told me the bunker stories. I am sure I blushed,and I started to stammer about howI was just interested in trackingdown architectural drawings fromthe 1920’s. That is, I was just doingpure historical research. (Which, infact, was true). He proceeded to tellme that the woman called the of-fice of the Chessie Railroad (whichowned The Greenbrier at the time)in Cleveland and told people therethat some guy from The Greenbrierhad called her with a lot of funnyquestions about past constructionprojects. I stammered some more.He repeated, “Bob, we don’t callCleveland.” I got the message onemore time: We will all be a lot bet-ter off around here if you just stoppursuing that subject.One day I was walking around thegrounds trying to determine wherecertain 19
-century buildings oncestood, and I found myself near afamily cemetery on a remote sec-tion of the property. A road led upto a wide, green wall with a metaldoor and a sign on it, “DangerHigh Voltage.” This wall and doorwere out in the woods not closeto anything. I stood there staringfor a few moments, wondering if this had anything to do with thatsecret bunker I kept hearing about.I remember thinking, “I am not sup-posed to be seeing this.” I simplyturned around, walked away, andtried to forget I ever saw it.Every now and then I would meetpeople who seemed to know some-thing about the bunker. A fellowemployee told me tales how a friendof his was involved in bringing insome communications equipmentduring the West Virginia Wingconstruction. This was not, he said,equipment that a hotel would everuse. The person telling the storyhad been in the U.S. Navy and saidthis was the sort of communica-tions equipment you would see ona battleship.Another man’s father had worked
See for Yourself
The historic bunker at The Greenbrier is open to the public forguided tours daily, year-round. The tour takes 90 minutes, andreservations are required. The cost is $30 per adult and $15 forchildren between the ages of 10 and 18. Children under 10 arenot permitted to tour the bunker. Phone (304)536-7810 for reser-vations, times, or additional information, or visit on-line at www.greenbrier.com.Author and historian Bob Conte welcomes personal recollectionsabout the bunker from GOLDENSEAL readers. Those with a story toshare can contact Bob at The Greenbrier, 300 West Main Street, WhiteSulphur Springs, WV 24986; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part of the display area currently on view during bunker tours is this exhibition of originalsecurity and communications equipment: a telephone switchboard at left and a surveillancemonitoring panel at right. (Note the three maps on the wall showing the locations of alarmsystems.) The weapons in the center were intended for use in case of disturbances.