I recently visited the historic Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia. It is a beautiful hotel and I can say that it was on my bucket list of places to experience. Despite its beauty and the wonderful time my family had there, there was something special that intrigued me most about the Greenbrier.
In the mid 1950s, President Eisenhower made a visit to the Greenbrier Hotel during a summit between the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of Mexico. While there, Eisenhower met with the President of CSX, the owner of the Greenbrier at the time. It was the Cold War, a time of tension between the Soviet Union and the United States and Eisenhower knew that the government needed to continue governing in case Washington D.C. was attacked. He saw the Greenbrier Hotel, tucked into rural West Virginia as an ideal spot to ‘hide’ the Legislative branch in this time.
Eisenhower convinced the President of the Greenbrier to allow the building of this secret bunker to be created. The Greenbrier was in need of creating a special wing to be added to the hotel so the government offered to pay for that in exchange for absolute secrecy of this facility. And so it was built over three years, opening in 1962. Very few knew about its existence and the most fascinating thing was that most of the bunker was open to the public between its operational existence from 1962-1992.
The government figured that it would be incredibly difficult for someone at the hotel or the town to not know something was there. As a diversion, part of the bunker was used as a conference facility equipped with meetings rooms, even two auditoriums that fit around 450 and 125 people, enough to fit each branch of Congress. The 18 inch blast doors were hidden from most people so they were led to think they were just walking into another part of the hotel. Most people in town and at the hotel knew that ‘something’ was there but they never could prove it. The bunker was not officially exposed until a Washington Post article revealed its existence.
One of the greatest secrets of the Cold War was hidden in plain sight.
I will always remember ‘discovering’ the Greenbrier Congressional bunker. I have been reading about so many New Year’s resolutions and people hoping to make this year happier than the previous one. There is a workout that will make us healthier. If I can come up with a better way of doing something at work, I’ll feel better. There is a job out there that will make me richer and happier. There is more money that will make life easier. Happiness will come if we do… (fill in the blank).
It reminds me of a great quote I read recently from Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
Happiness depends so little on the circumstances; it depends really only on that which happens inside a person.
Jesus shares more through Luke 17:20-21 NIV
Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within[a] you.”
Yes, happiness comes from within. It is hidden in plain sight. If our heart truly seeks Jesus, we are free and real happiness enters us. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t know this great secret. But it really isn’t a secret like the Congressional Bunker. But the bunker sure is great reminder to us to not look too far for happiness.
Happiness is hidden in plain sight for all of us.
PS You can read more here about the Greenbrier Congressional Bunker. It is definitely worth a visit.