Henderson Hall is located in Arlington, Virginia, directly across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital.
Henderson Hall is situated on Southgate Road on the southern border of Arlington National Cemetery, next door to the Army’s Fort Myer. The Pentagon is a short distance to the east, with the Air Force Memorial immediately to the east.
Built on land acquired through deeds and other actions between 1943 and 1952, Henderson Hall officially became U.S. government property on February 15, 1954, when the governor of Virginia executed a Deed of Cession of Political Jurisdiction.
With the move of Headquarters Marine Corps to the Navy Annex in November 1941, and Marine Corps expansion following the outbreak of World War II, a Headquarters and Service Company was organized at Henderson Hall on March 1, 1942.
Subsequently, the unit was designated Headquarters Battalion on April 1, 1943. A section of Headquarters Battalion of Women Marine Reserves was organized in September 1943 to provide barracks for a portion of the 2,658 women assigned to the Washington, D.C., area. During August 1946, a substantial number of female Marines were released from active duty, making Henderson Hall barracks available for billeting of male Marines.
Henderson Hall owes its name to Colonel (Brevet Brigadier General) Archibald Henderson, fifth commandant of the Marine Corps. Born in Colchester, Virginia, Jan. 21, 1783, he was appointed a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps June 4,1806; promoted to first lieutenant March 6, 1807; to captain April 1, 1811; and was appointed a major, by brevet, in the year 1814.
As a captain during the War of 1812, Henderson participated in the engagements with the British war ships HMS Cyane and HMS Levant on April 20, 1815. He received a silver medal and was included in the thanks of Congress to the officers and men of the USS Constitution for gallant service. He was later presented with a jeweled sword by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
During the years subsequent to the second war with Great Britain, until the year he was appointed commandant, Brevet Major Henderson was on duty at such posts and stations as Boston, Massachusetts; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps; and at New Orleans, Louisiana.
Oct. 17, 1820, at the age of 37, Lt. Col. Henderson was appointed as Commandant of the Marine Corps. He served in the position for more than 38 years – the longest of any officer to hold that position.
During the 1836-37 war with the Seminole and Creek Indians in Georgia and Florida, in which the Marine Corps took an active part, Col. Henderson, as commandant, went in person into the field with his command sharing in the dangers and exposures of that campaign. For his services in checking Indian hostilities, he was advanced to the brevet rank of brigadier general.
During the Mexican War, which was preceded by much military activity on the part of the Marine Corps during the years 1845-46 on the West Coast, Henderson administered the affairs of the Marine Corps. The success attained by the Corps during the war, including its expansion and development from a small fighting force into a well-recognized and very formidable arm of the nation’s military forces, was due in no small measure to the leadership and ability of its commandant.
In 1857, Marines were ordered, at the request of the mayor of Washington, D.C., to suppress an armed mob of “hired roughs and bullies” that had been imported from Baltimore to take possession of the election booths. During the riot, when a cannon was put into position by a large crowd who threatened the Marines, Henderson deliberately placed his body against the muzzle, thereby preventing it from being aimed at the Marines, just at the moment when it was about to be discharged.
He passed away quietly on the afternoon of Jan. 6, 1859. His remains were interred in the Congressional Cemetery in southeast Washington, D.C. The Navy transport, the USS Henderson, was named in his memory.