Quarters One - Depot treasure, historical landmark
By PFC Jess N. Levens
| | January 10, 2003
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
There are many buildings in the military that hold great historical significance. Some of the buildings keep old artifacts, weapons, and uniforms of fallen service members who have come before us. Presidents and generals have graced the halls and many of these buildings have become historical landmarks.
Such is the case of Quarters One, the home of Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego's commanding generals, past and present.
"Quarters One is not just a place for the commanding general to live," said Maj. Gen. Jan Huly, commanding general of MCRD San Diego and Western Recruiting Region. "It was built for everyone here. Quarters One is the Depot's house.
"This is not a reward for being the commanding general here," said Huly. "The real benefit is to help showcase what we do here and to tell the Marine Corps' story. Through this house, we educate the community in what we do in making Marines and showcase what the Depot can do for the community."
Besides housing the commanding general, Quarters One is used for formal dinners, weddings and social events with military and civilian leaders from around the world. It is also open to scheduled tours for groups of interested individuals.
"This house is incomparable to other generals' quarters around the Marine Corps," said Huly. "I was very fortunate to have an opportunity to live here with all of its splendor and beauty, history and legacy."
The history of Quarters One dates back to 1921, when construction began over top of what was a landfill, according to Gunnery Sgt. Kevin J. Saskowski, enlisted aide to the commanding general. Construction was completed in 1926.
The first commanding general to live in Quarters One was Brig. Gen. Smedley D. Butler. In recognition of his service, his sword hangs triumphantly in Quarters One.
In 1963, the house library was transformed into another bedroom. The Kennedy Room was first used as a place for President John F. Kennedy to relax and freshen up when he stayed at the Depot, according to Saskowski.
A shower and bathroom were not included in the room's original design. The room did have two small, unused closets. In a hasty fashion, Marines were brought in to convert the closets into a bathroom and a shower so the president could have a bathroom to himself.
"The Marines who installed the shower were in such a hurry, they installed the hot and cold water faucets backward. Due to the mix up, they had to label the faucets with large, red letters that read, 'hot' and 'cold' on the shower wall," said Saskowski.
The house also features pictures of former commanding generals and several wall ornaments.
Huly said, "I think you can't walk through the quarters without remembering all residents that have come before.
"The solarium and the Kennedy Room - those two rooms evoke the most thoughts in me," added Huly. "Entering those rooms, I realize what a special place this is in Marine Corps history."
Behind the estate, hundreds of different plant species flourish in the area known as Butler Gardens. This area is stocked full of palm trees, flowers, and other exotic foliage. In the center of the garden is a long, rectangular pond. The pond is crystal clear, painted with lily pads and is home to many, large koi (Japanese carp).
Other features brought to life in the garden are the "Kennedy Hedge," which was used as a backdrop when President Kennedy gave speeches from Quarters One, bamboo from the island of Okinawa, Japan, and a wide assortment of flowers.
"There are several roses planted in honor of the wives of the commanding generals. They are kept individually and were usually donated prior to change of command ceremonies," said Parker H. Jackson, Board of Directors, MCRD Museum Historical Society.
The Japanese theme and tranquil atmosphere of Butler Gardens is key to entertaining guests, both military and civilian. Quarters One is a popular site for community relations, according to Saskowski.
"Maj. Gen. Huly has made it clear that Quarters One is for everyone to enjoy," said Jackson. "With such a rich history and tradition, Quarters One is truly a Marine Corps treasure."
Quarters One is available by appointment only. For more information contact Saskowski at (619) 524-5943.