Folklore! Tradition! Change?

24 Feb 2006 | Cpl. Aaron K. Clark

As barracks folklore has it, in 1801 upon a newly purchased parcel of land, Marines were promised three dollars a month and one-quarter pint of rum daily to build a barracks that would house the newest residents of southeast Washington DC-themselves.Legend also states that Marines taking on the task of assisting in the construction of the Home of the Commandants-- the oldest public building in continuous use in the nation's capital were to receive an extra quarter pint of rum ration a day. The Home of the Commandants was finished in 1806, before the barracks was completed, even though construction on the home began 18 months after the general construction of the Barracks began.Since the barracks was initially constructed, there have been constant changes to the structures including the Barracks itself, the Home of the Commandants, and the recently completed Sousa Hall.Currently, multi-million dollar renovation project is being undertaken on the southern-end of the quadrant-shaped barracks, known today as "Building 9". "There were both health and logistical issues that warranted the renovations. The practice rooms for U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps needed to be renovated for acoustics like they are in the new Annex and Band Support Facility," said Maj. Michael S. Castellano, the battalion logistics officer.The inside of the building has been gutted and new practice rooms have been designed with acoustics in mind for the U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps. Additionally the old John Philip Sousa band hall will be re-constructed and rededicated as the Col. Truman Crawford Band Hall, named after the director of the D&B from 1973 to 1998. The new band hall will be used for hosting both military and civilian guests during the Evening Parades that take place during the summer months at 8th & I.While Col. Daniel P. O'Brien, former commanding officer of Marine Barracks Washington, ordered the renovations were over three years ago by Col. Daniel P. O'Brien, former commanding officer of Marine Barracks Washington, the work will not be complete until after the summer."The goal is to have the band hall finished by May so we can have it ready for (Commandant of the Marine Corps) receptions, and the rest of Building 9 will continue to be worked on during parade season, which runs from the beginning of May until the end of August," said Castellano.In addition to structural refurbishment, pipes, conduits, electrical systems, and ventilation systems are being improved. The installation of an elevator will add to the accessibility & hospitality of the Corps "Oldest Post." "This is supposed to be the Camelot of the Marine Corps, but the building wasn't up to current standards," said Castellano. "We are using a systematic method to improve systems that haven't been worked on in a hundred years." While construction has gone quickly, the age of the building has complicated the renovations on more than one occasion. "There were no original designs for the building because it was so old," said Navy Lt j.g. Dawn Moore, a project manager with Naval Facilities Washington."Prior to construction we had to do a number of onsite inspections to figure out how the building was laid out, and what we would have to change," said Moore."For example, there has been a huge obstacle in getting the band hall completed before the start of Parade Season. What we didn't know, because we didn't have the original plans, is the huge wall behind the main stage is a load bearing wall which means there will have to be even more work done to get it out of the way," said Moore.Just like during the original building of the barracks, the workers are the ones who made everything come together, and the same remains true today.The M.A. Mortenson Company is the contractor doing the renovations and will determine whether or not the band hall will be completed in time for Parade Season."It's a real challenge because it's an existing structure with a lot of modifications over its history," said Mike Larocque, the Mortenson quality control manager. "There are several former Marines working on the renovations here, they are all pretty excited about being here," said Larocque."I was in the Marine Corps from 1995 to 1999 and was stationed Bangor Naval Base. I had always wanted to come to the oldest post but never got a chance. It's neat to be working around the Marines every day," said Matthew J. Estevez, a Mortenson sub-contractor.Although workers received no rum rations and the Marines are not involved in the actual construction, those assigned here will reap the benefits of the newest construction aboard "The Corps Oldest Post."Editors Note: The Col. Truman Crawford Band Hall, once completed, will be able to be seen by the public during the parades of the summer months, or bye calling the public affairs office at (202) 433-4173 for a free tour.