100-year-old home reflects Marines’ rich harbor history
By William Cole
Honolulu Star Advertiser, September 16, 2013
A century of Marine Corps history at Pearl Harbor was celebrated Sunday (September 15) with a reception at the home named after one of the most famous Marines of all: Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Burwell Puller.
Puller, who received five Navy Crosses for heroism and gallantry in action, lived in the two-story Italian Renaissance-style home on Russell Avenue from 1948 to 1950 as a colonel.
The house, and two others like it, was completed in 1913 based on a design by French architect Jules Henri de Sibour.
The earliest Marine Corps barracks at Pearl Harbor also was built in 1913, officials said. A fourth home was built as a duplex a year later in a similar style.
The stately concrete residences with high ceilings, spacious yards and big monkeypod trees are part of a 100-year Marine Corps presence at Pearl Harbor that still includes the old Marine barracks and a former administration building, named Puller Hall, ringing a parade ground.
Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, head of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, lives with his wife, Cathe, in the Chesty Puller house, also known as Quarters No. 1.
The homes, which are also used by the Navy, are tucked away on a less trafficked portion of the base than the Craftsman-style Hale Alii residences where commanders including Adm. Samuel Locklear III, head of U.S. Pacific Command, reside.
The Marines go back as far as the Navy at Pearl Harbor, a base historian says.
“When the base was established, when we were starting to build this base at the turn of the 20th century, one of the first things that Cmdr. John Merry asked for was a contingent of Marines for security of the base,” said Navy Region Hawaii historian Jim Neuman.
They were probably happy to make the move. Neuman said Marines were living in coal sheds in 1904 in Honolulu “and asked for better accommodations, of course, and that’s when this (Marine) base was built.”
At the time, about all that was at Pearl Harbor was the Marine barracks, the shipyard, the Hale Alii homes and a coaling station, Neuman said.
Cathe Robling said old photos show that the area was “nothing but sugar cane fields” when they were building the home she now lives in.
The Marines played a big role in Pearl Harbor’s security, Neuman said.
“A lot of Marines came through here in World War II, obviously,” he said. “There were 1,000 Marines in the 1930s as they were doing exercises, 3,000 Marines (on) Dec. 7, 1941, and there were always thousands of Marines on this base heading out, many of them on Navy ships, so though it’s Marine barracks on a Navy base, I think the two are very much tied together.”
Quarters 1 served as the home of the commanding officer of Marine Barracks Pearl Harbor, including Puller from 1948 to 1950.
Puller is revered in Marine Corps lore. He earned an Army Distinguished Service Cross and his fifth Navy Cross as commander of the 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, during fighting in bitter subzero weather to break out of Korea’s Chosin Reservoir in 1950.
He fought Caco rebels in Haiti in the early 1920s, arrived in Hawaii in 1926 for his first tour at the Marine barracks at Pearl Harbor, received his first two Navy Crosses fighting in Nicaragua in the early 1930s and earned two more Navy Crosses at Guadalcanal and New Britain during World War II.
Along the way Puller is said to have commented, “All right, they (the enemy) are on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front us, they’re behind us. They can’t get away this time.”
Another famous quip: “Take me to the brig. I want to see the real Marines.”
Quarters 1 also has served as a residence for Marine general officers since the closure of the Marine barracks in 1994. It’s now the official residence of the commander of Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.
|Signage detail in front of the "Chesty" Puller House located at 201 Russell Ave. in Pearl Harbor.|
“I just think the whole architecture and the original features that are in this home that are so unique and different are what I really love about the house, and also the history,” Cathe Robling said. “It’s wonderful to be a part of that history, I think, especially now that this year (the house) is turning 100 years old.”