On July 12, 1798 President John Adams appointed William Ward Burrows as the second Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the first, of the newly created organization which consisted of 881 officers, noncommissioned officers, privates and musicians.

Headquarters of the Corps was in camp near Philadelphia until the national capital began its move to Washington in 1800. A small detachment of Marines was sent to the new capital in March of that year to protect the newly-established navy yard, while Major Burrows, with his staff and headquarters troops, moved to Washington in late July and set up their camp. Major Burrows was promoted to lieutenant colonel on May 1, 1800.

In 1800, Congress appropriated $20,000 for the building of a Marine barracks. Burrows, now a lieutenant colonel, picked a double city block in southeast Washington, bounded by G and I Streets and 8th and 9th streets, because "it lay near the Navy Yard and was within easy marching distance of the Capitol."

Money for building came in slowly, and the barracks and the Commandant's House at 801 G Street were not yet completed when Burrows resigned for reasons of health in 1804. He died less than a year later at age forty-five.

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