Although its grand opening is still at least 18 months away, the National Museum of the Marine Corps is already rising out of the hillsides and woodlands just south of the front gate of the Quantico Marine Corps base on U.S. 1 and taking shape.
“It’s going to be quite a place. This isn’t going to be an average museum. It will be world class,” said retired Marine Brig. Gen. Gerry McKay, chief operating officer for the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, which is raising the money for the project and overseeing its construction.
McKay led the region’s congressman and congresswoman, their aides and Prince William County Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, R-Dumfries, on a tour of the construction site Monday. Construction got under way earlier this year.
Most of the steel work for the 45-foot high walls of the circular atrium, which will be the centerpiece of the museum, is already evident at the site. When completed, it will feature a soaring 210-foot tilted mast atop a 160-foot glass atrium, evoking imagery of the World War II flag raising at Iwo Jima as depicted at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington and the smaller version of the monument outside Quantico.
“I’m excited about this. It is going to be an amazing tribute befitting the proud heritage of the Marine Corps and we are going to have it in our own back yard, said U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, R-11th District. “I also hope it is an inspiration to generations more to serve.”
“It is going to be magnificent. It will bring focus on the Marines which they so richly deserve given what they’ve done for this country and continue to do,” said U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-1st District. “It also is going to be an economic boost to this area.”
Between 300,000 and 500,000 yearly visitors are expected when the first phase of the project is completed in 2006.
The 210,000 square feet of the museum will include the central gallery atrium where Marine Corps aircraft will be suspended from the ceiling and combat ground vehicles will be on display. There will also be an orientation theater as well as a boot camp and other immersion exhibits which will give visitors a feel for what it is like to become a Marine as well as what it was like to be a Marine in battle, especially in World War II and Vietnam.
“This isn’t just about the Marine Corps,” McKay said. “But, this is history as seen through the eyes of the Marines.”
The 110,000 square feet of the second phase of the project, known in its totality as the National Museum of the Marine Corps and Heritage Center, will include additional exhibit galleries, a large screen theater and an armory.
“We have 3,200 regular weapons dating back to colonial days,” McKay said. “We need a home for them.”
A hotel and conference center also are planned.
The grounds of the facility will feature a three- to five-acre Semper Fidelis Memorial Park with Marine Corps unit memorials, trails and a chapel in the woods.
The first phase of the project is estimated to cost $80 million. Privately raised funds will account for $50 million with the other $30 million coming from the federal government.
McKay praised the support the Marine Corps has received from Prince William County, which donated 135 acres of land beside its Locust Shade Park for the project.
Improvements to U.S. 1 and a revitalization of that corridor are also in the works to help prepare for the museum and its visitors, Caddigan said.
“The planning for this has been underway for years,” Caddigan said. “You are going to see a six-lane roundtable (road outside of the Quantico gate) with the Iwo Jima statute in the middle. It is going to be magnificent.”
For more information about the National Museum of the Marine Corps, visit http://www.usmcmuseum.org.
Staff writer Aileen Streng can be reached at (703) 878-8010.