October 2008 – The Luxuries of Greenbrier County
Lewisburg, a quaint little town with art galleries and craft and antique shops, the bulk of Lewisburg falls within a 236-acre National Register Historic District. A walking tour takes you past many of the sites in the district-including more than 60 buildings from the 1700s and 1800s. The Old Stone Presbyterian Church displays a first edition King James Bible that was printed in 1611.
The historical cemetery tells of generations of our past. Lewisburg was the site of several Civil War battles. After the end of the war, the bodies of 95 Confederate soldiers were exhumed from the grounds of the Old Stone Church and re-interred on a hill. Now known as the Confederate Cemetery, the mass grave-in the shape of a cross-is a striking monument to the war. Andrew Lewis Park, discovered and named in the early 1750s for surveyor (and later, General) Andrew Lewis, includes the town’s original spring that supplied water to its earliest settlements.
Lewisburg is home to Carnegie Hall West Virginia, built in 1902 as a gift from Andrew Carnegie, a captain of industry of 19th century America. Today, Carnegie Hall is a non-profit performing arts center offering live performances, education and changing art exhibits throughout the year. Lewisburg also is home to the Greenbrier Valley Theatre, The Barrack Museum and North House Museum, and is a shopper’s delight, filled with specialty shops and galleries.
The world-renowned Greenbrier Resort is just seven miles down the road at White Sulphur Springs. The posh facility has a AAA Five Diamond rating, and covers 6,500 acres of scenic land, including a 40,000 square foot spa, mineral springs, three championship golf courses, pools, tennis courts, riding and hiking trails and a gun club. As a National Historic landmark, The Greenbrier’s classic architecture, interior design, sculpted landscape, impeccable service and outstanding amenities have hosted distinguished guests from around the world since 1778.
The resort has an unusual sightseeing attraction: an underground bunker system built to protect members of the U.S. Congress from nuclear attack. The US Government Relocation Facility was a secret from 1958 until 1992. Tours are available. During recent renovations at the resort and in the bunker, five meeting rooms were added to the bunker. The rooms, Knowland, Johnson, Rayburn, Stewart and Martin, were named for the leaders of the House and Senate and the Architect of the Capitol when the project began in 1956. In addition, the resort added an exhibition gallery. This area features artifacts and reproductions representing the security and communications area, dormitories, VIP lounges and medical clinic, as well as numerous photos of the facility, a video on the history of the Cold War and other materials relevant to the bunker.
Another feature of history, Oakhurst Links, is the oldest organized golf club in the United States. Established in White Sulphur Springs in 1884, green fees still include replica equipment like hickory golf clubs and guttapercha balls. Sheep roam the course today, as they have throughout the club’s history. While in town, visitors can also stop by the National Fish Hatchery and the Monongahela Forest Information Center.
Greenbrier State Forest, in Caldwell, covers 5100 acres of Kate’s Mountain, which peaks at 3,280 feet. The park features nine hiking trails, game courts, log pavilions and, in summer, a heated pool. Thirteen cabins are available for rent. The campground features sixteen campsites, all with electric hookup, picnic table and stone fire pit with a grill. The forest of Kate’s Mountain is a bountiful spring display ground of West Virginia plants and wildflowers, both common and rare. Kate’s Mountain’s box huckleberry, for example, is said to be at least 6,000 years old; the oldest living being in the world. In late April, wildflower enthusiasts, naturalists, and hikers gather in the park to search the forest and identify as many species as possible. Watoga State Park is about 30 miles from White Sulphur Springs. It has the Greenbrier River as part of its boundary and is the state’s largest park.
For more on Greenbrier County, visit www.greenbrierwv.com.