The Greenbrier (www.greenbrier.com) in White Sulphur Springs, WV, is older than the Constitution of the United States. In the span up to now, 26 presidents have taken respite at the resort (every commander-in-chief since Dwight D. Eisenhower), and a congressional relocation bunker was built at the height of the Cold War in the case of a nuclear atrocity (The Greenbrier would have become the hub of U.S. policy).
Luckily, the bunker was never put to use, but it underscores The Greenbrier's track record: Not many hotels can hold a candle to it. However, with evolving guest tastes, the resort has been forced to roll with the new times. Mission accomplished: After a $50 million renovation, the famed resort reopened in April with updates to its public spaces, restaurants and guest quarters, ushering the resort into a new era of luxury hospitality.
Spread out over 6,500 acres and nestled within an enclave of greenery along the Allegheny Mountains, The Greenbrier has always stood out, whether for its top-notch service or for its main building, which is a near facsimile of the White House (about four hours northeast).
Yet change was needed, says Jerry Wayne, The Greenbrier's vice president of sales and marketing. "We realized we needed some improvements," he says.
Fortunately for The Greenbrier, its owner, CSX Corporation, has deep pockets. A total of 63 guest rooms have been updated so far, with new marble bathrooms equipped with soaking tubs, new furniture and updated décor under the direction of designer Carleton Varney. Property-wide, the most popular booking option is the Spring Row Cottages, while the Presidential Suite isn't shabby either, at seven bedrooms. Accommodations are broken down into five types: traditional, classic, classic deluxe, heritage and estate; rooms in the latter category command the highest rates.
Perhaps The Greenbrier's biggest move is reshaping its food and beverage platform. Wayne says the resort is ditching the Modified American Plan (a system of paying a fixed rate that covers meals) and moving toward the European Plan, where hotel rates do not include meals. The new plan also relaxes dining times, so that guests can eat in the main dining room whenever they want. "Our goal is to have the main dining room be the most elegant of any dining room east of the Mississippi," Wayne says.
The resort's latest culinary innovation is Hemispheres, which will feature a menu shaped by Chef Michael Voltaggio (previously the executive chef at Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen in Sonoma Valley, CA). Highlight dishes include a Jameson Farms lamb shoulder with spiced yogurt. Also new is the cocktail lounge 3830, named after the resort's longitude and latitude.
Golf Courses Getting Upgraded
The Greenbrier hopes its new dining experience will rival its most acclaimed offering—golf—for which the resort is synonymous. A likely reason has to do with a fellow named Sam Snead, a golfing legend and The Greenbrier's golf professional emeritus up to his death in 2002. (Tom Watson assumed his handle in 2005.) Three championship courses span the resort's grounds, including The Old White, which opened in 1910. Like the rooms, the golf courses are getting reworked. The Old White's original design plans were serendipitously unearthed and designers followed the blueprint during renovations.
Lastly, what could a luxe resort be without a spectacular spa? The Greenbrier has it covered—over 40,000 square feet worth. Running in step with the spa, is The Greenbrier's new wellness program, which seeks to rejuvenate the body and mind.
Travel agents looking to book The Greenbrier or who have questions concerning the property can call Tom Lavacarre at 678-366-2205.