9 - Quarters One
One of the oldest structures on Parris Island, Quarters One, is the home to Parris Island’s commanding officer. Though a prominent structure, its early history is blurred, and the house has gone through numerous renovations and additions.
Quarters A 1889
The house was one of two buildings constructed along the Beaufort River in 1884. The home was built for the naval station’s commanding officer and was designated Quarters A. The other building, Quarters B, was divided into four suites for the station’s civil engineer and other officers. Any excess room in Quarters B was used for storage.
The two structures were built by naval personnel, and the furniture for the commanding officer’s home came from the decommissioned warship Pawnee, then serving as a supply barge in the Beaufort River. The station’s engineer, Ensign William Braunerstruther, considered Quarters A to be “small, poorly arranged and uncomfortable in all weathers, unsuitable for a commanding officer who has to entertain.” He constantly requested that a new home be built for the officer in charge, even submitting plans for a large brick structure with a lookout tower, but funds were never authorized, and in 1887, Braunerstruther rebuilt Quarters A using a force hired from the island’s black residents into what he referred to as a “fairly comfortable residence.”
In 1889, the piazzas were extended, the roof was tinned and an additional room built. By late 1889, the naval station was in working order, and Navy Lt. Charles H. Lyman took command. Initially, the station was a supply and coaling depot, but soon, its mission was expanded to include repair and dry dock facilities. In 1892, a large dry dock, equal in size to any in the United States, was started. Its construction necessitated the movement of the commanding officer’s home some 500 feet to the southwest near the head of the dry dock, which is the home’s current location. To move the house, the structure was cut into different sections and then reassembled.
In 1899, a request was made for a new commanding officer’s quarters. The house was described as being made up of “cheap frame buildings.” It was stated that it was unsuitable for the rank of the occupant, nor was it believed that the house could withstand a hurricane, but no funds were appropriated. Instead, the structure remained as the home for the commanding officer of the naval station. When the Navy facility was relocated to Charleston, the house was occupied by the Marine Corps officer who oversaw the mothballed station and later the island’s correctional facility. When the recruit depot was relocated to Parris Island, the house became home to the depot’s commanding officer.
Quarters One 1981
From 1889 to 1903, Quarters A served both as the home to the commanding officer and as the station’s headquarters. In 1903, Building 17 was constructed as a headquarters, and Quarters A became exclusively the residence of the commanding officer. The house was badly damaged in the hurricane of 1893, and many believe it was extensively renovated after the storm, taking on its current look. At the turn of the century, the house contained a residential section in front and an office area that was entered through a side door. In the rear was a one story kitchen. The home also boasted numerous porches and well ventilated sleeping areas.
Though the house has undergone numerous renovations and changes, it still retains its original flavor and charm. It contains 27 rooms and over 6,000 square feet. The structure is currently undergoing another renovation that is removing unsympathetic changes and alters some of the interior layout. Completion date is set in time for the Centennial Celebration in October 2015, when again the quarters will be the home for the commanding general of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and the Eastern Recruiting Region.
A number of well-known officers have lived in Quarters One. Prominent Marines included Medal of Honor recipients John “Handsome Jack” Myers, Eli T. Fryer and Randolph C. Berkeley and Commandants of the Marine Corps David M. Shoup and Robert H. Barrow; other residents included Joseph H. Pendleton, Harry Lee, Logan Feland, Julian C. Smith and Edwin A. Pollock.