During the Cold War, the threat of nuclear war was a constant fear. In 1956 President Dwight Eisenhower, concerned about the survival of the government, set in motion a plan to build a facility where Congress could be relocated in the event of such an attack.
The special bunker was code-named "Project Greek Island." The facility is located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, at the Greenbrier Resort. One a secret, the public can now see the Spartan living conditions that were made ready to house the nation's leadership in the case of a nuclear war.
The dimensions of the facility are impressive. There are two levels, with a total of 112,000 square feet of floor space. The walls are between 3 and 5 feet thick, and the complex was sealed behind 3 steel blast doors, 18 tons and heavier.
Behind the entrance stretches a 16,000 square foot hall that would have served as the office space for congressional staff. After the bunker's construction, part of the space was actually used by the Greenbrier as an exhibition hall, hosting events like medical conventions. It was, in effect, hiding in plain sight.
Linda Walls has worked at the Greenbrier and in the bunker for decades. She said the first stop for members of Congress on their way into the facility would be the decontamination area. High-pressure showers, together with a little soap, were intended to blast any nuclear contaminants off. All clothing would be stripped and burned in an incinerator located in the lower level of the facility.
The bunker was built to accommodate 1,100 people. The plan allowed for each member of Congress to bring one aide - their families were to be housed somewhere else. Two gym-like auditoriums would serve as chambers for the legislators.
The bare-bones accommodations included metal bunk beds in 18 dormitories. The cafeteria could only fit a few hundred at a time, so meals would have to be served in shifts.
The bunker existed like this from 1962 until May 31st, 1992, when the Washington Post Magazine broke its cover in a front-page story. As a result, the bunker was declassified. Since then the Greenbrier has been conducting daily tours for visitors.
Now the bunker appears frozen in time, a historical relic, but consider this: if it hadn't been revealed it would still be in use today to protect Congress in case a terror attack crippled the nation’s capital.