The thought of hundreds of U.S. congressmen and women bunking together in close quarters for an extended period of time is quite amusing.

This is the exact scenario anticipated when construction of a massive and very secret underground bunker began in 1959. Not completed until 1962, the Emergency Relocation Center for the U.S. government is 112,544-square-feet, featuring four entrances, decontamination chambers, 18 dormitories designed to house 1,100 people, power plants, water storage for 25,000 gallons, kitchens, hospital, meeting rooms and communication and recording booths. It was a massive undertaking. The trick is this huge bunker was built — in complete secret — underneath the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia, a resort that has been entertaining guests since 1778.

This massive door is 25 tons but only takes 50 pounds of pressure to open it. It was hidden behind a false wall in one of the hotel’s hallways.

The facility had 30 years of food storage and was maintained by a group of undercover government workers calling themselves the Forsythe Associates, fronting as the resort’s audio/visual services. The bunker was kept in complete secret until the Washington Post exposed the facility in 1992. I’m guessing that’s when the Russians probably dedicated an ICBM specifically for Greenbrier.

The lease agreement ended in 1995 and now the hotel offers tours of this remarkable space.

One of the many Congressional meeting rooms.


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the March 2015 issue of American Survival Guide.