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crossroads of the United States Marine Corps
The town of
, having the distinction of being the only town surrounded by a military
post, has a colorfully storied past.
While not part of the Quantico Marine
Corps base, the town is bordered by the base on three sides, and a
municipal park fronting the Potomac River forms
’s fourth boundary.
councilman and former mayor Mitchell Raftelis has lived in
Quantico his entire life and is the town's unofficial historian.
When the U.S. Marine Corps needed
riverfront land for a training camp in 1917, it leased 5,300 acres beside
the town of
. The Marine Corps bought the land the following year.
Over time, the town and the base have
forged a close relationship.
is one of the only places in the world where Marines may routinely wear
their utilities, or camouflage uniforms, off base.
The town is located on the southern
side of the mouth of Quantico Creek, just around the bend from the
. Its location made it a transportation center — for ferries across the
, for steamboats, and eventually for the railroad.
According to the 2000 census, the
Gasser, mayor and owner of the Command Post Pub.
“We have a mixed population. Retired
and active-duty Marines live in town among civilians. Everyone knows
what’s happening in town. We have seven compact streets, financially
independent, trouble-free and heart-strung to the Marine Corps,” says
Mayor Albert R. Gasser, who is currently serving for the third time as the
, the town’s old-fashioned commercial thoroughfare, many catering to the
Marines on the base. Restaurants, shoe stores, dry cleaners, barber shops,
tailors, beauty shops, pizza parlors, laundromats, variety shops, uniform
shops, a financial planner, a bank and a
post office serving both the town and base all can be found within the
town’s nine blocks. There are about 50 small retail and service
businesses in the town.
is located on
on the banks of the
. It’s adjacent to docks that are part of a marina on the base.
The pride of the town is the newly
renovated Virginia Railway Express-Amtrak Station (old
train station), complete with waiting area, ticket sales, coffee shop,
newsstand and tourist information corner. It is also home of the Prince
William Model Train Club, which has a permanent exhibit in part of the
Stephanie Schupe and Dan Hampton of
have been using the Virginia Railway Express for the past three years.
They commute from their homes to work on the base at the Marine Corps
System Command, which has more than 900 employees plus 500 to 700
contractors and consultants, some of whom are opening offices in town. “We
used to stand outside in the cold of winter and heat of summer waiting for
the train, but the opening of the station has been a real blessing for
. “Riding the train sure beats driving up and down jammed-up Interstate
95 or U.S. Route 1,” adds Schupe, who says it’s
only a 10-minute walk from her job to the station at the town’s
By The Large Stream
is an Indian word that means “by the large stream.” The large stream
, which flows along the edge of the town and has been the source of
prosperity, fear and pleasure from the 1600s to the present.
The town is rich in history, beginning
in 1654 when the first land patents were given to
English settlers. The town began as Carborough, then Evansport, Potomac
. Great plantations “Dipple” and “
” were built nearby.
During the Revolutionary War, both
land and water routes were used heavily. George Washington and Colonial
ally, General Rochambeau, traveled the
with their troops. The fledgling Navy of Virginia numbered 72 vessels,
which harbored in the area of
The second military conflict with
, the War of 1812, brought the fighting closer to
when a number of British ships anchored off shore in 1814. The town
organized its defenses but was ultimately saved by a destructive storm.
The waterway was a source of danger
again during the Civil War.
seceded in April 1861 and the Potomac shoreline was immediately recognized
as a danger to the Union, especially the capital city,
National Museum of the Marine Corps, which opened in late 2006, is
expected to draw thousands of tourists to the town.
By August gun batteries were in place
at Evansport (
) to protect both Manassas Junction to the west and
to the south. Supplies to
and troop transports were cut off for a few months.
In 1870, the
& Potomac (RF&P) Railroad extended its line to Evansport and
operated a ferry to
and the RF&P Railroads would bring passengers as far as
until such time as the lines were consolidated; then the ferry was no
longer used. After the Civil War, a population decline in the area matched
an economic slump.
continued as a sleepy fishing village until 1872 when the two railroads
met at Quantico Creek.
The Quantico Company was formed after
the turn of the century to finish the task of bringing new life to the
town. The company promoted
as a tourist and excursion center. Picnic areas, beaches, refreshment
stands and a dance pavilion were established.
The Quantico Shipyard was built in
1916 on Shipping Point, known today as Hospital Point. The company built
ocean freighters, tankers and planned to build passenger ships.
Because of the war in Europe, the U.S.
Marines would arrive in 1917 and
faced a new destiny. The Corps purchased land from the Quantico Land Co.
in 1918 and the Marines became permanent neighbors of the town. Within
three weeks of opening the base, there were 1,000 Marines stationed at
. By August 1917, most of the tents had been replaced by wooden barracks
and a wood-frame hospital had been built.
Officers’ quarters were housed in
the Quantico Hotel, built on Rising Hill in the 1880s and acquired by the
Marine Corps in 1918. The building stood until 1968 and when it was torn
down, the Confederate Evansport battery was discovered beneath it.
replica of the famous Iwo Jima monument stands at the entrance to
has had its glimpses of history in the making because of its unique
’s unofficial historian, Mitchell Raftelis, is 84 and has lived in the
town his entire life. He has served as mayor and councilman. He notes that
Teddy Roosevelt strolled the town’s streets and is remembered sitting on
a nail key, cracking jokes, in front of a hardware store. Another
Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, would arrive in an open touring car
flanked by motorcycle policemen. He’d wave his cigarette holder as he
was driven down to the river to board the presidential yacht. More
recently, Harry Truman would arrive on the yacht and walk to the
headquarters building on the base.
Raftelis was instrumental in getting
grants to restore the train station and is now devoting his efforts to
securing funding for the “Potomac Avenue Streetscape Enhancements”
that would include beautifying the main street with new sidewalks,
landscaping, lighting and benches. A new bicycle/pedestrian route is also
in the works. “With the opening of the
of the Marine Corps last November, thousands of tourists will be coming to
visit our town and we want it to be attractive,” says Raftelis.
Another life-long resident of the town
is Mary J. Booth, 69, who has been the town clerk since July 1998.
“It’s a great community … everyone is friendly. We have been labeled
as the town that can’t grow because of our unique situation —
surrounded by the Marine base. The major change I’ve seen in recent
years has been the coming of more office space,” said Booth.
was incorporated in 1927 and chartered in 1934 and is a textbook example
, with its safe, tree-lined streets. From town, it’s an easy commute to
area via the Virginia Railway Express. The housing is affordable and the
scenery along the waterfront is breathtaking.
As in many small communities, the
barbershop is a good place to catch up on the latest news in town. Larry
Mino, 64, who has run the City Barbershop for the past 18 years, says
“For the retired Marines and their families who visit here each year for
their reunion, it’s like coming home, bringing back old memories. The
best thing about being a barber in such a small town is the opportunity to
meet so many different people from all over the country and world.” Lt.
Col. Anthony Kolkmeyer, stationed on the post and in the shop for a
haircut, agrees. “I like the old-town atmosphere of
and always enjoy coming back from my other assignments,” he says.
There is a Marine Corps MP or sentry
at the front gate standing by to greet visitors to the base and the town.
The Marine Corps was given exclusive jurisdiction by Virginia and the
Congress to maintain and police the road into town when the Marine Corps
acquired the land. However, freedom of ingress and egress is maintained
for the residents and visitors to the town.
Lee assists his father in the running of Quantico's Best..
Taehwan Lee, 28, whose father,
Sangchul Lee, opened
’s Best in 1998 — an alteration, embroidery, military souvenirs store
— assists in the running of the shop. “I was in the U.S. Army for
eight years and in my travels I never found such a unique town as
, being surrounded by a base. It’s very quiet and our customers are very
nice,” he says.
Quantico is located just off
Interstate 95 and U.S. Route 1 in Prince William County, about 40 miles
from Washington, D.C., and 25 miles from the cities of Manassas and
Mark O’Connor, 54, of
, who is a financial advisor for First Command in town, says he has found
that residents of the historic town “… feel like they are part of
something special — being surrounded by the best people in the world —
the Marines and federal civilian employees.”
Bill Hall, a native of Kansas, has enjoyed his time in Quantico.
Postmaster Bill Hall, 55, of
, who is retiring in the spring of 2007, has headed up the
post office for the past three years. A native of
, Hall says he has served with the U.S. Post Office for 37 years and has
enjoyed his time in
serving both the military and civilians. “It’s a quiet, old, pretty
laid-back town and I like that,” he says.
Frederic Willar, 40, of
, operates two of the 11 restaurants in the town, Li’l Harry O’s and
Harry O’s Bakery & Deli. “You couldn’t ask for nicer clientele
than my customers. I want to give them a variety of foods, so one
restaurant offers Mexican food and the other homemade deli and baked
items,” he notes.
For the commuter or the visitor to
town who wants a snack or a fresh cup of coffee, Elizabeth Boyles of Dale
City, who works in the Whistle Stop Coffee Shop in the train station, can
provide it. “I also handle the purchase of train tickets,” she notes
with a smile, adding, “I like the people who come in … they are real
Mayor Gasser says that, because of the
isolation of the town, one of his main objectives is to find more
activities for youth and more family-oriented events such as the annual
Christmas Parade, which has been part of the town for the past 60 years.
“I’d like to see improvements made to the town,
but I don’t want to change the complexion of it. I want people to
come back 10 or 15 years from now and find that we have maintained and
preserved the small-town atmosphere,” he concludes.