Palace of the Governors
The Palace of the Governors, constructed in 1610 following the establishment of the Villa of Santa Fe by Governor Pedro de Peralta, is the oldest public building in the United States that has been in continuous use. Originally, the royal houses and grounds ran from the Plaza north to the site of the present federal buildings and contained the governor's private apartments, official reception rooms and offices, military barracks, stables, arsenal, and servants' quarters.Vegetable gardens were planted in a central patio consisting of some ten acres. The Palace extended farther to the west in Spanish times and had two torreones, or defense towers, on the east and west corners of the facade. The western tower served as a prison and for storage of gunpowder. No portal existed.
During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the troops and refugees gathered within the Palace and resisted attacks until the Indians, after a ten-day siege, cut off the water supply and forced the Spaniards to retreat to the El Paso region. During the next twelve years, the Indians pulled down the houses and the parish church and used the adobe bricks to fortify the Palace. Upon his reconquest in 1693, General de Vargas found that the building had only one or two entrances, no outside windows, four or five defensive towers, and walls around the whole complex. Within, the Indians had subdivided the Spanish rooms into typical Indian cubicles with thin, puddled partitions, remains of which still exist in some interior walls.
Turning the tables on the rebels, de Vargas also cut off the water supply from the springs to the east and forced the Indians to surrender after some days of bloody attacks on the fortress. The governor, soldiers, colonists, and priests all lived in the Palace until other housing could be provided. For want of a chapel, de Vargas had the Franciscans purify and bless the east torreón, which the Pueblos had made into a pagan kiva. When de Vargas died in 1704, there was still no principal church, and it is probable that he was buried in the floor of the torreón chapel, which then extended out into the Plaza and Washington Street. After the parish church was built in 1714, the torreones on the Palace were torn down in order to straighten the Plaza. When the southeastern room was excavated in 1965, the foundations of the east torreón were clearly visible, but no remains of de Vargas were found. His bones may still lie under the passing traffic of that busy street corner.
The Palace as the seat of government saw such distinguished incumbents as Marín del Valle, who built the military chapel with its stone altar screen, and Juan Bautista de Anza, who, after founding the city of San Francisco in California, was sent to New Mexico as governor and saved the province from near extermination at the hands of the Comanche. The visit of Bishop of Durango Pedro de Tamarón in 1760 was celebrated by a reception in the Palace and procession to the parish church. ln 1807 Lieutenant Zebulon M. Pike was interrogated in the Palace after he and his few companions had been arrested on the headwaters of the Rio Grande. Mexican governors continued to occupy the building for official business and private residence. At different times rooms were used for different purposes; what was once a sala , or reception and ballroom, or perhaps a governor's apartment, was later a council room or library. On August 18, 1846, Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny occupied the Palace in the name of the United States. Confederate forces used it as headquarters for a few weeks in 1862.
In time the Palace was outgrown and a territorial capitol was built across the Santa Fe River. This capitol was later burned and rebuilt. The original building was still used for offices, but was in such sad condition that the territorial government threatened to tear it down, only to be stopped by the protests of public-spirited citizens. The 1909 legislature appropriated funds to convert it into the Museum of New Mexico, and remodeling for this purpose was completed in 1913. The graceful, scroll-saw portal of 1878 was replaced by the present one of earlier Spanish style, but Victorian doors and windows were retained. The Palace exhibits include prehistoric archaeology materials, as well as those from Spanish, Mexican, and United States periods.