The Palace of the Governors has always been a highlight of Santa Fe tourism, and for a good reason. It is one of the most unique structures in the United States. Located directly on the Santa Fe plaza, this historic site is in easy walking distance from many Santa Fe hotels.
The Palace of the Governors located directly on the north side of the plaza served as Spain’s official seat of government in what was called Nuevo Mexico. The adobe structure with four foot thick walls was built in the early 17th century after the founding of Santa Fe in 1610. Today, the Palace of the Governors is one of Santa Fe’s most interesting cultural museums. The building was placed on the list of National Historic Landmarks in 1960. The Palace of the Governors museum consists of period rooms. The exhibitions at the Palace tell stories of over 400 years of New Mexico history starting with Francisco Vásquez de Coronado’s 1540 expedition from Mexico into the southwest. It was Coronado’s expedition that was in search of the seven Cities of Gold and along their path came in contact with several Native American tribes such as the Zuni’s in the area of present day southwest New Mexico. Coronado and most other Spaniards in New Spain (Mexico) had heard many rumors from the Aztecs about these cities to the north built of gold. This 1540 expedition was also the first introduction of Franciscan friars into the southwest.
Another distinction for the Palace of the Governors is that it is recognized as the nation’s oldest continuously used public building. The building was constructed between 1610-1612 and features a unique combination of Spanish and Pueblo Indian design. These structures are generally referred to as adobe and are found throughout the southwest.
The Palace of the Governors also has the distinction of having served as the governmental seat for several different rulers of the territory. The Spaniards, who built the structure were obviously the first and their governor reported directly to the Viceroy of New Spain who resided in Mexico City. After the Mexican revolution in the 1820’s the building was used as the Mexican governments seat of Nuevo Mexico. After the Mexican American War in 1848, the United States occupied the building as the seat of government of the new official New Mexico Territory. At that time the territory comprised what are now the states of New Mexico and Arizona. This building served as the territorial governors palace. Today, Santa Fe still serves as the capitol of the State of New Mexico in the modern building complex just a few blocks south of the plaza.
Prior to the 2009 opening of the New Mexico History Museum, located adjacent to the Palace of the Governors, the Palace structure built in 1610 served since 1909 as New Mexico’s history museum. It was where the finest artifacts of the history of New Mexico were housed. The exhibits in the museum chronicle the entire period of first Spanish settlement in the area. What tourists in Santa Fe will also experience are the many Native Americans under the building’s front portico who sell their genuine jewelry and other art products on a daily basis. The Native vendors who sell in front of the Palace building are licensed to guarantee that what is being sold are genuine native American made items. The selection of various merchandise offered is fascinating and you don’t want to miss taking a look. The Native American vendors program assures that you are purchasing legitimate art rather than fake knock-offs. The artists come from the surrounding pueblos and this gives you a unique chance to meet the artists themselves.