Over the weekend, Rob and I redeemed a Groupon we had purchased for two nights at The Greenbrier. The Greenbrier is a beautiful and historic resort located just a short two-hour drive west of Charlottesville, right inside the West Virginia border. While our primary goal for our getaway was to rest, we couldn’t help but be intrigued by the incredible history and design of The Greenbrier.
Beginning in 1778, Mrs. Anderson, a local pioneer, followed the local Native American tradition of “taking the waters” to relieve her chronic rheumatism, utilizing a spring of sulphur water at the center of the resort property.
The property got into the hands of a prominent Baltimore family, the Calwells, who took the resort to another level. They sold cottages, many of which still stand today, to prominent Southern individuals, and notable guests of the time included Martin van Buren and Henry Clay.
A hotel was built on the property in 1858, but during the Civil War, the property changed hands between the Confederate Army and the Union Army, who almost burned the resort to the ground.
After the Civil War, the resort reopened and both Southerners and Northerners vacationed there. It also was the setting for many famous post-war reconciliations, including the White Sulphur Manifesto, “the only political position issued by Robert E. Lee after the Civil War,” that advocated the merging of the divided regions.
The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway purchased the resort property in 1910, building additional amenities and The Greenbrier Hotel in 1913. At this time, the resort’s name officially changed to The Greenbrier, while the neighboring town took the name White Sulphur Springs.
During WWII, the resort served as an army hospital, and many German and Japanese enemies were detained there. After the war ended, C&O bought back the property from the government and reopened the resort, with all new interior decorating by Dorothy Draper. Its reopening was a major social event, with the Duke of Windsor with his wife, Wallis Simpson, Bing Crosby, and members of the Kennedy family attending.
In the 1950s, the US government asked The Greenbrier to create a “secret emergency relocation center” to house Congress in the event of a nuclear war. Although the bunker was created and stocked with supplies for decades, it was never actually used. In its history, The Greenbrier has hosted 26 presidents, and many of their photos adorn the walls throughout the resort.
Today, The Greenbrier has seven restaurants, an indoor pool and spa (using the white sulphur waters), dozens of retail shops, an ice skating rink, a casino, several bars, an equestrian center, a golf course, tennis courts, and more. However, temperatures were in the single digits during our stay, so we had the perfect excuse to just rest, drink tea, play chess, read, explore indoors, and watch the snow fall down.
For those looking for a luxury retreat, this is your place. I have to admit, though, that most activities and restaurants at the resort are priced quite steeply. Since our goal was to relax, it was easy to do that without spending additional money. Our favorite complimentary activity was afternoon tea, which takes place at 4:00 each day. We also didn’t experience the more formal restaurants, but loved our dinner at The Forum. We had a delicious Italian dinner there, without paying an arm and a leg.
Also worth noting, the service was exemplary (as you might expect). The reception desk had an issue with finding our reservation, and, because of the (5-minute) delay, they upgraded our room! They also provide a glass of complimentary tea or champagne for guests upon arrival. The rest of the staff we interacted with were incredibly kind and helpful, as well.
It would be a treat to return to The Greenbrier! We absolutely loved our restful time there.