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Where legends have lived: Quarters One

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Quarters One
Photo: wikipedia

Throughout the , there are only three houses designated Special Command Positions by the Department of Defense. The officers assigned to these homes are required to represent the United States in official and social activities involving foreign and domestic dignitaries.

Two of these important homes are the Commandant’s and Assistant Commandant’s homes at Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. The third is right here on Neville Road aboard Base Quantico: Quarters One, also known as the Commanding General’s Quarters, which has been occupied since 2015 by Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Combat Development Command and deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration.

Besides being one of the three most important homes in the , Quarters One has also been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2008.

The list of previous occupants of Quarters One reads as a “who’s who” of 20th and 21st century notables: “Greatest of all Leathernecks” Maj. Gen. John Lejeune, two-time Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, decorated commander of the 4th Marine Division during Iwo Jima Lt. Gen. Clifton Cates, and former commander of United States Central Command Lt. Gen. James Mattis.

Eight of 43 occupants went on to become Commandants of the : Lejeune, Cates, Maj. Gen. Wendell Neville, Maj. Gen. John Russell, Maj. Gen. Thomas Holcomb, Maj. Gen. Lemuel Shepherd, Lt. Gen. Charles Krulak, and Lt. Gen. James Amos.

Quarters One was commissioned in 1917 along with 320 other permanent and temporary buildings to be built at the newly-established training facility at Quantico. The house is in the Dutch Colonial Revival style and was designed by the Navy Bureau of Yards and Docks specifically for Quantico, as opposed to being a stock design.

To reflect the rank of its occupant, the house is the largest on base: 6,359 square feet, as opposed to the next-largest, Building 8, which is 2,505 square feet.

It was completed in 1920 (making it also one of the oldest buildings on base) for a cost of $31,833. The first occupant was Lejeune, who moved in on April 1. Lejeune described living in the house as “a welcome change, not only because I was tired of commuting (from Washington, D.C.), but also for the reason that we longed for the pleasant social life of a military post.”

Lejeune only lived in the home until September of that year and in October, Butler moved in to begin his tenure as Commander of Quantico. He would serve in this position until 1924–making his residency at Quarters One the longest time he lived in one place until his retirement from the in 1931.

It is the house’s association with Butler during this period that led to its being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to the registration, “[Butler’s] achievements as Commander of Quantico from 1920-1924 and 1929-1931 significantly influenced national trends of military education and practice and laid the foundations of the modern .”

As he stated in an April 1920 speech, he wanted Marines to do more than just “soldier,” but to be forward-thinkers who developed new military concepts. He led the implementation of the educational programs that are the ancestors of today’s University. Among the programs was one of the first training courses in amphibious warfare.

Also during his tenure as commander, Butler oversaw the establishment at Quantico of the first Marine air force base, which became a place for aviators who developed, tested and refined the concept of “close air support.”

He worked hard at creating a public relations program for the that kept the service relevant to the public during the interwar years. He built Butler Stadium as a home for a Quantico football team, which was both a public relations tactic and a way of recruiting men into the Corps.

And he introduced the bulldog as the mascot. His bulldog Jiggs was the official Quantico mascot and quickly became the unofficial mascot for the whole Corps. Jiggs’ association with the Corps became formal when Butler signed his enlistment papers in 1922. By July 1924, Jiggs had been promoted to sergeant major.

Since Butler was living in Quarters One when he did all this, is it much of a stretch to say the house is the birthplace of the modern ? And as the current residence of the commanding general of Combat Development Command, it houses the ideas that will shape the of the future.

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