Digitize This, by Marlene Bruce



The Greenbriar (West Virginia)

December 12-13, 2004

Below is my first photo shoot with my early Christmas present of a new camera. Thanks Mom and Robert, I love it!

In anticipation of the holiday season my mom decided to take my brother and me on an overnight trip to The Greenbriar Resort in West Virginia (via one of her seniors bus tours). Years ago she and my dad lunched there, back when you could enter the grounds without a reservation or pass, a policy instituted after 9/11.

The Greenbriar is renowned for not only its sulphur springs, interesting history and opulence, but also because it was revealed in 1995 that it hid a huge underground bunker, built during the Cold War to secretly house our Congressional officers and members (but not their families). Far below the West Virginia wing, which held the 'cheap' rooms (relatively speaking) where we slept, there are two levels of the bunker, each the size of four football fields, beneath which is a third level for storerooms and other service-related spaces (such as kitchens). Apparently the excavated earth made a 9-hole golf course, an 18-hole golf course and a small mountain. The bunker was closed last year for renovation and will reopen for tours in 2006, I think.

I found the architecture and decór fascinating, though sometimes I thought the wallpaper ugly, etc. On approach the building looked Neo-Classical, but closer inspection revealed an out-of-place organically shaped cement awning, which made me suspect that all was not as it first appeared. Credit for the atypical mix of periods goes to Dorothy Draper, who decorated the Greenbriar in the 1940s, after it was used as a hospital and rehab center for WW II soldiers, and Carleton Varney, who took over her firm when she retired in the 1960s and has continued to manage the interior. This explains all the colorful, post-war influence and more modern touches.

Of course The Greenbriar is much more than a hotel. It sits on a huge lot of land, with other buildings, cottages and houses, and has all kinds of activities available to guests, including falconry, an off-road driving school, horseback riding, a gun club, spa, golf courses, culinary demonstrations, and pretty much anything else the rich and beautiful might want.

As lovely as it was, the place went against my grain, and I got in a conversation with an employee about the attitudes of the hoity-toity and how selfish conspicuous wealth is. She made sure to ask me please to keep her identity secret, she didn't want to lose her job.

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