The Greenbrier – Resort Of The Month

The Greenbrier – Resort Of The Month

Barbara Gibbs Ostmann

IT ALL STARTED BACK IN 1778, when word spread that the mineral waters of White Sulphur Springs, tucked away in the Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia, could cure rheumatism and all manner of ailments, bring color to the cheeks, and ensure longevity. People came from far and wide to drink the therapeutic waters. They camped in tents on the same site where today stands The Greenbrier, perhaps the grandest of the grand hotels.

Those early visitors would be awed by the magnificent buildings surrounding that once-humble spring today, and by the superlative service that is the hallmark of this resort.

Even the most sophisticated traveler will succumb to the charms of this grande dame. The hotel’s interiors are dressed in the brilliant florals that made their designer, the late Dorothy Draper, famous. The great Georgian lobby with its black and white marble floors is awash in sunlight from 16-foot windows and French doors. This is where tea is served every afternoon, accompanied by a violin and piano duo. Throughout the public rooms are charming conversation areas and cozy little nooks just right for reading, writing, or playing a game of chess or backgammon.

From the moment guests arrive at the stately main entrance, they are treated royally–and many guests have been royalty, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The Greenbrier’s guest register includes 26 U.S. Presidents, Hollywood stars, prime ministers, princes, and inventors as well as everyday families like yours and mine.

Connoisseurs of fine living will find their every fancy–from golf to chocolate–is graciously served up in the true tradition of the Old South. Guests are outnumbered by an army of employees, whose sole mission is to pamper guests.

“Many of our staff members are second–and third-generation Greenbrier employees. They have a greater influence in preserving our legacy than any other factor,” says Ted J. Kleisner, the resort’s president and managing director.

The Greenbrier is an American legend, basking in its more than 200 years of history. Beginning with the early campers, a cottage community quickly grew around the spring. In 1858, a deluxe hotel, The Old White, was built and the resort’s reputation spread. In 1910, the Chesapeake mad Ohio Railway corporation bought The Old White, and, after extensive renovation and construction, reopened it as The Greenbrier.

The hotel was used as an internment center for German and Japanese diplomats and their families from 1941-42. In September 1942, the U.S. Army converted it into a 2,000-bed military hospital.

After the war, the railroad regained ownership and commissioned New York’s Dorothy Draper to refurbish and redecorate the entire hotel–resulting in the trademark look that it still proudly wears today.

In 1958 construction began on a top-secret underground bunker at the hotel, designed to house the U.S. Congress in the event of a national crisis. This facility remained a well-kept secret until an investigative reporter exposed it. In 1995, 12 million viewers of NBC’s “Dateline” program got a close-up look at the interior of the Cold War bunker. Today, guests can take tours of this mind-boggling facility.

In 1974 The Greenbrier was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1990 it was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior. Memorabilia is displayed in the President’s Cottage Museum.

Health and rejuvenation have always been prime reasons for visiting The Greenbrier, where restoring body, mind, and soul is a particularly pleasant pastime. As early as 1912, The Greenbrier had a European-style bath house, including what was then one of the largest indoor pools in the world. Today, that tradition continues, updated with the most sophisticated spa and clinic facilities.

The Greenbrier Clinic, a complete medical diagnostic center established in 1948, is a favorite of executives, who can have a complete health evaluation in the morning and enjoy a round of golf in the afternoon.

For a touch of pure heaven, guests can treat themselves to an appointment at the sate-of-the-art Greenbrier Spa. In 2001 the spa was renovated and enlarged and features 23 treatments specifically designed to refresh and renew.

New treatments include Kate’s Black Walnut Scrub, a signature service using indigenous products for exfoliation. Vichy showers are used for body exfoliation treatments such as the Honeysuckle Scrub, Moor Mud, and Glacier Clay Wraps. The Zephyr hydrotherapy tub uses salts and offers color therapy. All baths feature freshly drawn waters, either the White Sulphur Springs sulphur water or the Alvon Springs mineral water, in private tubs. For the ultimate in relaxation, Swedish full body, aromatherapy, and ThermaStone massages are available.

Others may opt to relieve stress on the golf links or the tennis courts. Golf is king at The Greenbrier, where Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Dwight Eisenhower, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby, to name just a few, have played the three 18-hole championship courses.

The Greenbrier Sam Snead Golf Academy is a state-of-the game instructional facility adjacent to the courses. Whether you are new to the game or have a single-digit handicap, the academy’s professional training program offers clinics and multi-day classes.

Tennis players have plenty of choices, with five Har-Tru outdoor courts and five Dynaturf indoor courts. The resort’s more than 50 recreational options include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, falconry, trap and skeet shooting, sporting clays, off-road driving school, climbing tower, fly fishing, hiking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, carriage rides, mountain biking, aerobics, croquet, bowling, billiards, and more.

Cooking enthusiasts are in luck, too. Every spring since 1991, Anne Willan, founder and president of the famed Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne of France, invites guest chefs and culinary colleagues to teach alongside her at La Varenne at The Greenbrier. Stephen Raichlen, author of The Barbecue Bible and other grilling cookbooks, teaches Barbecue University at The Greenbrier. Other celebrity teachers offer three–or five-day programs at various times.

The Greenbrier Cooking School opened in 1977, and the new Greenbrier Culinary Arts Center opened in 2001, reflecting the popularity of culinary programs. From May through October, cooking school coordinator Riki Senn and her chef-associate Sue Moats teach gourmet cooking classes on a variety of topics. Children’s cooking classes are offered from June to August.

Speaking of the culinary arts, dining at the Greenbrier is a highlight of any visit. Room rates are based on the Modified American Plan, which includes breakfast and dinner daily.

Nowhere is The Greenbrier’s Southern heritage more apparent than at the breakfast table. Pan-fried brook trout, buckwheat cakes, hominy grits, Virginia ham, cornbread, biscuits, gravy, and homemade preserves are served each morning in the magnificent Main Dining Room.

Dressing for dinner is part of the tradition, and the dining room with its crystal chandeliers, candlelight, and string ensemble makes a perfect setting for a leisurely meal. Greenbrier favorites include peaches and bread pudding for dessert.

The resort also offers Healthy Living Spa Cuisine for guests who prefer leaner, lighter mealtime choices. “As is tradition at the resort, the development of these lighter menu options relies on The Greenbrier’s philosophy of using only the best ingredients, extremely fresh produce and meats, and, of course, the expert skills of our culinary staff,” says Rodney G. Stoner, food and beverage director. “We’ll always maintain the tradition of The Greenbrier, but if there is a new and interesting trend, then we’ll incorporate that along with the traditional Greenbrier foods.”

The story of The Greenbrier is one of evolution and adaptability, romance and tradition. The Greenbrier combines a breathtakingly beautiful setting with a rich historical legacy and stirs in generous helpings of Southern hospitality, the health-wise ways of European spas, and the sporty lifestyle of American country clubs to create its signature approach to dining and entertainment. Mix in a culinary staff well versed in fine gastronomical traditions and hundreds of employees who personify the friendliness and generosity of West Virginia, and you have The Greenbrier’s recipe for success.

As the brochure proclaims, “For more than two centuries, The Greenbrier has been Ladies and Gentlemen being served by Ladies and Gentlemen … it still is.”


Name: The Greenbrier

Owner/Operator: CSX Corporation,

Location: Situated on 6,500 acres in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia. Just off Interstate 64, the resort is 250 miles Southwest of Washington, D.C. and is easily accessible by air, car, and train.

Accommodations: 739 guest rooms, including 40 suites and 69 cottages.

Facilities: Five restaurants: 10 lobbies” Gallery of Shops; The Art Colony in Alabama Cottage Row (featuring hand-crafted items and original art); 30 meeting rooms; three 18-hole golf courses; 10 tennis courts; conference center; 37,000-square-foot spa; Falconry Academy; Gun Club and shooting preserve; cooking school; museum.

Awards: Mobil Foul Star: AAA Five: Diamond; and many others.

Rates: Based on Modified American Plan (breakfast and dinner daily). Single occupancy from $250 to $690 per room; double occupancy $438 to $7,10. Deluxe suites, guest house, and special package rates upon request.

Contact: The Greenbrier, 300 W. Main Sill White Sulphur Springs, WV 24986; or (304) 536:1110;

COPYRIGHT 2003 World Publishing, Co. (Illinois)

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group