Catholic church: Assumption of Our Lady
Most Guam residents know the village of Piti from what they see along Marine Corps Drive, Guam’s main thoroughfare. The first noticeable landmark in the village along Marine Corps Drive when heading southbound is the Piti Underwater Observatory. The observatory juts out from the coastline into the ocean.
The Piti coastline is lined by two beach parks: Tepungan Beach Park, with newer pavilions, and the Pedro Santos Memorial Park, with an older, large pavilion and unused basketball court. This area of the coast, known as the Piti Bomb Holes, is a marine preserve, where fishing is now prohibited. This prohibition has resulted in an abundance of fish and other sea life that make the Piti waters popular among divers and snorkelers.
Slightly further south, across the road from the ocean, is the New J-Market grocery store and a gas station, just before the Piti Power Plant at the junction of Marine Corps Drive and Route 11, which leads out into Cabras Island. Cabras Island extends into the ocean to form part of Apra Harbor and is further extended by the Glass Breakwater, named after U.S. Navy Captain Henry Glass. On this island is the Cabras Power Plant, the Port Authority of Guam and the Commercial Port. Further out is Family Beach, a secluded recreational spot.
The village proper is located just across from Cabras Island, on the cliffside of Marine Corps Drive. The village is a small residential area with curved two-lane roads and a scattering of homes, many of which date back to the decade after World War II. The village’s most prominent features are Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church and the Mike S. Tajalle Baseball Field. The mayor’s office is in a small house-like structure, and the old senior citizen’s center is now being used as a youth center.
Piti started out as a small pre-Spanish settlement, with plentiful fishing for the ancient Chamorros. Even after the arrival of the Spanish, Piti remained a small village until the Port of San Luis of Apra (Apra Harbor) near Piti became the chief harbor of the Spanish government.
With the increased presence of other European powers in the Pacific in the early 1700s, Spain ordered the improvement of Guam’s defenses. Between 1720 and 1730, Fort Santiago, a small emplacement with cannons, was erected on top of Orote Peninsula overlooking Apra Harbor. In 1734, the Spanish opened a new anchorage for ships in Apra Harbor, offering better protection from storms and a higher level of defense than fortifications in the village of Umatac. In 1737, Fort San Luis, with six cannons, was completed on Orote (near what is now Gab Gab Beach) to defend the anchorage. The area near Gab Gab Beach was a part of Sumay village, which is now U.S. Naval Station Guam.
After 1740, most ships began to anchor in Apra Harbor when the wind was favorable, with cargo transferred via small boats to a pier near the village of Piti. From the village, the goods were transported by two-wheeled carts pulled by steer or oxen to the government store in Hagåtña. For many years, the road connecting the pier at Piti to Hagåtña, made of crushed limestone, was the only real road on Guam.
In the 1830s, the Spanish helped plant the first rice paddies in Piti, which continued until after the World War II.
Piti and Apra Harbor played an important role at critical points in Guam’s history. The surrender of the Spanish government and military on Guam to U.S. Navy Captain Henry Glass, for example, took place at Piti on June 21-22, 1898 during the Spanish-American War, with the cruiser USS Charleston and a contingent of U.S. Marines anchored in Apra Harbor.
Apra Harbor became the port for U.S. naval vessels under the new American government, and in 1899 a navy yard was created on the former Spanish crown property at Piti.