A look at historic Hagatna house

Guam Institute
Guam Institute

A look at historic Hagatna house

by: Rosanna P. Barcinas | .
Guampedia | .
published: October 25, 2015

Old Hagåtña home
The Jose P. Lujan 1911 house in Hagåtña is listed on both the Guam and National Registers of Historic Sites. With so few prewar homes left standing, particularly in Hagåtña, it was important that this structure was restored, according to the Guam Preservation Trust. The two story structure is located on the corner of Hesler and Padre Palomo Streets, diagonally across the street from the current Guam Legislature Building.

Lujan, a Chamorro Hagåtña resident, built the house reportedly by hauling the coral stones from Hagåtña Bay. The Spanish introduced Chamorro method of construction used for this two-story house is mamposteria. Lujan built the house with the intention of renting to U.S. Naval officers who were his first tenants.

Historians speculate that the house was one of the first built on Guam with indoor plumbing. Sometime in the 1920’s, Lujan lived in the house with his new wife for two years while he built them another house in Anigua.

Home of the Guam Institute
For a long period of this building’s life it housed the Guam Institute, one of the first private schools during Guam’s Naval Era, run by Nieves Flores. Archbishop Felixberto Flores (the first Chamorro archbishop), the first Chamorro Chief Judge Joaquin Perez, Governor Ricardo Bordallo, and other prominent local figures were all students at this school.

The Guam Preservation Trust is in the process of rehabilitating the structure and retrofitting the upper floor for use as the Trust’s office space and the lower floor to be used by various cultural groups – in keeping with the structure’s use as an institution of learning.

This house is a tangible link to Old Hagåtña.

Rehabilitation Completed
In November 2010 the Guam Preservation Trust completed rehabilitation efforts of the 1911 Historic Jose P. Lujan house in Hagåtña. It now houses the Trust’s offices.

The Department of Parks and Recreation, Government of Guam, who owns the Lujan House, applied to the Guam Preservation Trust in November 2005 to restore the structure. Only the upper east wall and a few ifil wood columns could not be salvaged.

After investing approximately $900,000 towards breathing new life into this house, the Guam Preservation Trust opened its office doors in this beautiful home that Jose P. Lujan built almost 100 years ago.

Due to financial constraints, however, a landscaping plan was not included in the design or construction phases. The Trust is working with the University of Guam’s College of Agriculture to plant ornamentals, fruit trees and many plants that were found along homes in pre World War II Hagåtña such as mango, achote, laguana, donne’ and tobacco.

While the second floor is being used as administrative and management space for the staff of the Guam Preservation Trust, the first floor must be used for advertised Board of Directors public meetings in order to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirement of being accessible. When not being used by the Board, the first floor can be used by various community organizations throughout the year.

About the Structure
The two story mamposteria structure is approximately fifty feet long, twenty-five feet wide and twenty-five feet tall. The top of the lower floor, or pa’pa’ sat’ge,  is seven feet tall. The second floor is ten feet tall at the top of the roof beam and several more feet taller at the top of the roof hip.

The original construction method of mamposteria and trapechai walls with ifil wood flooring, columns, window shutters, structural columns and metal roof, had seen modifications in its life time with the use of Philippine mahogany and incompatible cement.

The rehabilitation work undertaken by the Trust included replacing the entire roof, replacing the balcony and rotting segments of the floor boards and columns with an ifil species from the Philippines. Unfortunately, Guam does not currently have quantities of mature ifil wood for use as lumber.

The first floor limestone rubble walls, with each wall section about two feet thick, consisted of two parallel walls, filled with sand, shell and rubble. A limestone plaster mix was spread evenly on the wall’s surface. Of all the walls in the Lujan House, only the upper east wall needed to be reconstructed.

The second floor was constructed of limestone and ifil as well but with a different construction method.  The limestone walls on the second floor have an infill ifil cross bracing embedded in each wall – serving the same means as contemporary rebar in cement.  This method, called trapechai, allows for thinner walls on the second floor, some as thin as seven inches as compared to the two-foot thick walls on the lower floor.

The second floor demolition phase exposed only two original ifil structural columns needing to be replaced.

In the reflected second floor ceiling is evidence of a 1982 collaborative restoration project undertaken by the Lujan family heirs, the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Guam Women’s Club. This restoration work was overseen by local architects Jack B. Jones, FAIA, and Mark Ruth, AIA.  The Philippine mahogany ceiling from this 1982 work was still salvageable and was reused.

The Trust designed and recreated a coral Santa Cruz Street directly in front of the house that used to be there before World War II.  The devastation of the Japanese occupation and the severe bombing of historic Hagåtña from the American forces in their efforts to retake Guam left few homes in what was once the most populated village on Guam.  Other than the occupation and bombing, the American Naval Administration’s efforts to restore Hagåtña included razing the entire village, bulldozing the debris into Hagåtña Bay and restructuring Hagåtña into city blocks that left land owners with fragmented lots. This restructuring of Hagåtña forced Chamorro’s to relocate to their outlying farm villages and saw the creation of many post World War II villages, such as Dededo, Barrigada and Yona.

The Lujan House is a testament to one of Guam’s best known Chamorro builders, designer and businessman – Jose Pangelinan Lujan.

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