A salute and look back on Arnold Palmer’s rich history with The Greenbrier and The Greenbrier Sporting Club
In an interview in June of 2015, Arnie reminisced on the beginning of his Greenbrier relationship that coincided with his start on the professional tour. “I have a particular soft spot in my heart for The Greenbrier. Back in 1955, my first year on the Tour, I couldn’t win any official money during my first six months and I was sort of playing on a shoestring. Then, I was invited to play in the Sam Snead Festival, an unofficial pro-am at The Greenbrier. My amateur partner was Spencer Olin, a prominent industrialist and very nice man. We tied for first in the pro-am division and Spencer Olin had bought our team in the Calcutta they had at the tournament. I finished third on the pro side, Mr. Olin gave me a big piece of his winnings from the Calcutta, and I wound up with close to $10,000, which really came in handy at that time.”
Following that first win, he played the festival at The Greenbrier again in 1961, and then here in the 1986 American Express Seniors Tournament. Arnie returned to The Greenbrier in 2010 to cheer on his grandson, Sam Saunders, who played in the inaugural Greenbrier Classic PGA Tour Event. The relationship culminated in 2015 with Arnold Palmer as one of 4 legendary golfers collaborating for the first time to design our newest golf course at The Greenbrier Sporting Club. What a fabulous legacy this legend has left us to carry into our future.
A Tribute to Arnold Palmer
1948: Dining room with Draper china
1955: Arnold Palmer on right with AM partner Spencer Olin
1960s: Chesapeake Room
1961: Arnold Palmer (2nd from left) and Chris Dunphy (far right)
1986: Arnold Palmer, Governor Arch Moore, and Lawson Hamilton at Pro-Am
2010: Arnold Palmer at the first Greenbrier Classic to watch his grandson compete
2014: Arnold Palmer at the September Tennis Championship
2015: One of his last design projects, The Greenbrier Sporting Club’s pending course at Oakhurst
General Robert E. Lee pictured in front row, second to left. – Photo Courtesy of The Greenbrier Historical Archives
Information & Photos Credited to Dr. Robert S. Conte, Greenbrier Historian
Many may know that on August 31, 1942 The Greenbrier became Ashford General Hospital. But, did you know that in 1861 it became the hospital for wounded and sick soldiers during the Civil War?
The Greenbrier, then “The Old White,” served as both military headquarters and hospital for the Confederacy. For two years, the grand hotel accommodated up to 1,600 soldiers, and its dining room and parlor were filled with multiple rows of the wounded. According to the National Archives, 192 Confederate soldiers died during their time at The Old White, with many of them passing during late fall into winter. It was during this time, that Confederate General Robert E. Lee made a stop at White Sulphur Springs, as he came down the mountains and into western Virginia. Upon visiting the wounded, Lee first saw the horse he would eventually ride in battle and throughout his later years in life. This horse was born approximately 20 miles from White Sulphur Springs, and was originally named “Greenbrier” by his owner Major Thomas Broun. A year later, Lee met the Major in South Carolina and was given the horse as a gift. Lee kindly turned down the offer as a gift, and demanded Broun take $200 payment for the horse he then named “Traveller”.
After the war, Lee rode Traveller from Lexington, Virginia (where the General had become the President of today’s Washington & Lee University, then Washington College) to White Sulphur Springs for three consecutive summers to vacation in Baltimore “G” cottage with his family. The Greenbrier served as a much-needed oasis of relaxation from the turmoil of battle for Lee, his family, and friends.
Years later, during the 1930’s, The Greenbrier held a week long celebration in honor of General Lee, titled “Lee Week.” Above is Mrs. Woodrow Wilson unveiling the portrait of General Lee on Traveller (portrait to the left), painted in 1932 by Natalie Grauer. Natalie and her husband William founded the Alabama Row Art Colony in the 30’s, which is today the Art Colony Shops. Both Mr. and Mrs. Grauer painted the murals in the President’s Cottage Museum, which show Lee and his family on the porch of their Baltimore Row cottage (mural shown below).
Today, we honor General Lee and his beloved horse in the namesake of one of our most popular neighborhoods, Traveller’s Hill. Located adjacent to The Greenbrier Sporting Club’s Equestrian Center, Traveller’s Hill is the ideal neighborhood for equine lovers and those looking for convenient access to equestrian activities, as well as Greenbrier amenities.
All photos courtesy of Dr. Robert S. Conte, Greenbrier Historian. Map circa 1880-1890.
Neighborhood Feature: The History of White Sulphur Hill
In 1858, many changes were on the horizon for our nation. As West Virginia was on the brink of statehood, The Greenbrier, better known then as “The Grand Central Hotel” was changing as well. Recently purchased by a group of prominent, wealthy Virginians, the hotel affectionately known around the nation as its nickname “The Old White”, re-opened its doors to the public. Changes around the property had taken place prior to the grand re-opening, including the construction of new cottages–Virginia Row, Tansas Row, the completion of South Carolina Row, among others. However, a lesser known bit of information may be the system of paths or walkways incorporated into the wooded landscape behind Baltimore and Paradise Row.
These paths, were known as “Lover’s Walk”, in the area we know today as the White Sulphur Hill neighborhood. Over 150 years before stately homes stood in this neighborhood, the many couples that frequented the resort took leisurely strolls along this path. Veering off first from Lover’s Walk was “Hesitancy Row”, which namesake denotes this was for couples looking to not journey further into a relationship. The path ended abruptly, and as the name suggests, lead to nowhere. If couples chose to continue their trip along “Lover’s Walk” they would encounter “Lover’s Leap” (pictured), a point that overlooks Howard’s Creek and the “Meadow Land”, now part of the Howard’s Creek neighborhood. (It is important to note, that there are no records, according to Greenbrier Archives of anyone actually partaking in this leap.)
As couples continued on their stroll, they came to a crucial point where the pathway forked called “Courtship Maze”: this is where they must take “Rejection Row” (a name that does not leave much to the imagination) or “Acceptance Way to Paradise”. If couples chose the latter, it led directly to Paradise Row, and seems to confirm this is indeed where couples are said to have spent their honeymoons at the famous White Sulphur Springs.
Today, the White Sulphur Hill neighborhood consists of 29 homesites, with many homes built and a handful of homes and homesites for sale. As many couples begin their legacy by strolling along “Lover’s Walk” at The Grand Central Hotel, you too can be part of the history now at The Greenbrier, America’s Resort.
Source: Conte, R. S. (1998). The History of The Greenbrier, America’s Resort (7th ed., pp. 50-54). Charleston, WV: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company.
Ten Years! It’s hard to imagine The Greenbrier Sporting Club is poised to celebrate its 10th Annual Homecoming Weekend beginning this Thursday. The weekend is always a favorite with members, as they reconvene to play, relax and dine together for an unforgettable weekend full of club activities. There are a number of happenings beginning on Thursday and Friday, including an open house reception at Ananda Spa Friday evening. Things really begin to ramp up on Saturday. In the morning, the shotgun golf tournament will blast off at 9am. Soon after, a variety of both children and adult activities will begin to take place throughout the day. Among them: cocktail mixology for adults and pony rides, dodgeball, pond fishing, archery and s’mores for the whole family! At 6pm, a reception and awards banquet will take place at The Members’ Lodge before everyone breaks for dinner.
The Greenbrier resort’s premier Prime 44 West steakhouse, honoring famed NBA player Jerry West, opened this past fall. The restaurant’s warm and inviting atmosphere coupled with its cuisine, featuring exceptional cuts of beef from West Virginia and around the globe, will embody comfortable dining at its finest.
Every aspect of the venue – from the décor to the menu – will pay homage to the West Virginia native, commonly known as “Mr. Clutch.” In addition to rich, elegant colors that tie The Greenbrier’s style in with the traditional steakhouse feel, diners will have the opportunity to treat themselves to a meal amid the largest public collection of West memorabilia. West is personally outfitting the restaurant with more than 100 pieces, including the gold medal he won at the 1960 Summer Olympics, All-Star jerseys, mementos from his college days and more.
Natural and dark woods combined with bold and traditional fabrics complement the collection of memorabilia, creating a “diners club” experience. The warm, intimate ambiance is enhanced by rich burgundy, royal blue, brown plaid, chocolate brown leathers and soft interior lighting.
Prime 44 West focuses on extraordinary ingredients presented in a traditional yet refined manner, including innovative steakhouse favorites. Appetizers include a “raw bar” with Kumamoto Oysters on the half shell with Fresh Wasabi, and Chilled Shellfish Platter with Horseradish Crème Fraiche. Other signature starters like Lobster Bisque garnished with Chestnut and Cardamom and Chesapeake Bay Crab Cake Cigars with a grapefruit and papaya remoulade. Entrées include steakhouse staples with a local twist, including West Virginia Blue Ribbon Pork Duo, Snake River Farm Wagyu Tenderloin, Elysian Fields Double Cut Rack of Lamb and a “Nothing But Net” 44 oz. Porterhouse Steak.
Corie Lynch, The Greenbrier Sporting Club’s winter intern, presents the second installment of her series of “Reasons I Love The Greenbrier…And So Should You.”
A popular question I hear among guests is: who were some famous people who have stayed at the Greenbrier? Since I have asked it myself, I consider it a good question. If you have ever had an interest in The Greenbrier’s distinguished history, there are many opportunities available to appreciate its legacy. Upon some research, I found that a total of twenty-six U.S. Presidents have visited The Greenbrier since 1815, including Ulysses S. Grant, John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, as well foreign dignitaries such as the Duke and Dutchess of Windsor. I also acquired a list of celebrities who have stayed here; and possibly the coolest I’ve seen was Cass Gilbert of The Mamas and The Papas, who became my prestigious band of the month that I am obsessed with. The Greenbrier seemed to be somewhat of a mini-Hollywood type setting in the mid-20th century, with stars such as Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Eddie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Bing Crosby, Liza Minnelli, and Grace Kelly roaming the halls. These, and many more significant historical figures who have visited The Greenbrier, is in itself reason enough to come and absorb the famous aura yourself. But try to save some for me.
Left: The Duke and Dutchess of Windsor; Right: Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher.
Left: Sam Snead (left) walks the fairway with President Dwight D. Eisenhower (right); Right: President John F. Kennedy visits the hotel during a Tobacco Association meeting.