On the north side of the Plaza is the Palace of the Governors, a single-storey adobe building running the full length of the block. It was built in 1610 as Santa Fe’s original capitol building, and claims to be the oldest U.S. public building still in continuous use. It was designated a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1960 and an American Treasure in 1999. Each day its portico is the base for a number of Native American traders who come here to sell their crafts – see my shopping tip.
Inside is a museum which tells the story of Santa Fe and the surrounding area. Collections cover the Spanish colonial (1540-1821), Mexican (1821-1846), U.S. Territorial (1846-1912) and statehood (1912-present) periods of history. We only had limited time to look round (doing our usual trick of trying to pack too much into one day, while also wanting to chill and enjoy our surroundings!) But even with limited time it is worth making the effort to go on – for me, not so much for the collections, good though they are, but for the chance to see inside this old building. I also liked seeing the period rooms which offer a glimpse of how life would have been in the past for residents of Santa Fe.
Entry costs $9 (adult non-residents, September 2011 prices) but if you plan to visit several museums you can get various passes, e.g. two in one day costs $12.
Off the main plaza, runs a lengthy compound known as the Palace of Governors. It was constructed in the early 1600's and was the seat of the Spanish government.
Outside, beneath a roofed walkway, sat several Native Americans selling silver jewelry, beaded jewelry, woven products, carved wood pieces and local crafts. (Look closely at the photo to see them). These coveted spots are determined by lottery each morning.
Since we arrived after 5pm on Friday evening, we were admitted for no charge (the museum closes at 8pm that night). A docent told us that not only did the Governor and his family live in this structure, but the troops did, too, which explained its size!
The right wing of the compound seemed the most interesting to us. Paintings of distinguished looking Spanish officials and their descendants hung from stuccoed walls, a small chapel and Prince's room (where visitor's were received) kept company with a full size mud coach, rifles, revolvers and swords. Small niches held jars and statues from ancient Indian cultures.
The left wing of the compound was set up to display the History of Printing.
Hours are Mon.-Fri. 1pm-5pm; Fri. evenings 5pm-8pm (free). Closed most holidays. $8 admission for non-residents.
The Palace of the Governors can’t be missed in Santa Fe --- it looks so much like an ordinary box building made of adobe – but actually it is the oldest public building in continuous use in the USA! The place is also a museum and has several important artifacts from pre-Sapnish contact to the present day. Also under the portal, Native Americans sell jewelry and crafts ( a tradition that has been on-going since the 1930’s).
This very simple-looking palace was completed in 1610. It is 19,000 sq ft and it chronicles a very long time-line from pre-Spanish cultures in the area, to 223 years of Spanish rule – 25 years as part of Mexico and then 66 years as a territory of the USA, and from the statehood of NM in 1912 until the present time.
Right after eating lunch at the Shed, you can go next door to the Palace of the Governors, built in 1610 and now one of several museums in downtown Santa Fe. The Palace contains exhibits on early life in New Mexico while it was under Spanish rule, during the Mexican-American war and during its tenure as a territory of the US.
My teenagers enjoyed the exhibit on the 19th century printing presses. They were equally amazed to hear I used a typewriter in high school. That was right after I used a hammer and chisel in elementary school.
An all day pass for an adult is $7.00. For $15.00, you can get a 4 day pass to visit 5 museums, a definite bargain.
The photo shows the chapel located in the Palace.
2016: updated with new photos and Culture Card info:
Located In the heart of the plaza, the Palace of the Governors is a National Historic Landmark and the oldest continually occupied public building in the U.S. Constructed as New Mexico's capitol in 1610, its 4-foot thick adobe walls have survived 400 years of turbulent history including the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, when oppressed local tribes wrested control of Santa Fe from the Spanish, and Governor Don Diego de Vargas' recapture of the town in 1692. Today it's a museum which maps the history of Santa Fe/New Mexico from 16th century Spanish exploration to U.S. statehood in 1912. It includes many interesting artifacts and is a great way to familiarize yourself with the diverse cultural past of this fascinating city.
Two fascinating individuals who will pop up in others of my Santa Fe reviews - Edgar Lee Hewett and Jesse Nusbaum - were responsible for rescuing and renovating this deteriorated treasure in 1909-1913.
It's one half of the New Mexico History Museum; a much newer wing connected to the Palace which delves deeper into the New Mexican story, and includes more about its indigenous people. Your ticket includes both museums plus Palace Press: adjoining rooms which house a working exhibit of early letterpress techniques.
Tickets may be purchased for just this collection or bargain-bundled under the Culture Pass with entrance to three other state museums in Santa Fe: New Mexico Museum of Art, International Folk Art, and Indian Arts and Culture. No entry fees for children under 17, and free evenings are a bonus for all ages. Check the attached websites for most current information:
For the earliest photo of the Palace (1868):
The Governor's Palace is the 'official' western end of the Santa Fe Trail. All goods coming and going from New Mexico had to be reviewed by the Governor's staff for tax purposes. Today, the palace is a wonderful museum of Santa Fe and New Mexican history and culture. Most days of the summer, you'll find American Indian crafts people selling their turquoise and silver jewelry and traditional pottery in the shade of the veranda. It's a great opportunity to meet the people who have crafted these exquisite items.
The "Palace" so called was built first in 1610, and the purpose was to have some more upscale facility for any gentry coming form Spain to stay in, if they came. The palace was continually expanded over the next 50 years and one time the complex included about 4 square blocks of people living inside partial wall for defense, but the palace was for further defense and had slots for shooting out, and the walls were constructed to be 12-24 inches thick . In 1680, the Navajo Indians rebelled to the servitude sand Christian conversions and rules, and took over the palace for 12 years. it was retaken by General de Vargas in 1692, and he eliminated many Indians in the process to take back the region. After that period, Mexico got freedom, and they took over, then came Santa Fe trail and the Americans/traders came and settled here and took possession. The palace was a convent and a rooming house among other things. The state renovated it back to its more historically look.
Tours are given every other hour and they last about 45 minutes. The tour is good verbal description of the palace and people. It has a lot of artifacts on display. Admission is $6 single, or $15 with history museum adjacent to the palace. It is open 10-5 daily
This is a wonderful tour of the times beginning with the Spaniards that came and conquered into the evolving of Americans and the cowboy era. There are three floors to view and the visit could average 1 1/2-2 hours. There are interactive displays; some with good depictions of the times during the cowboy era, or what Spanish would be saying/doing in their time. There is also art paintings/collections donated to the museum that is nice.
The museum opened in 2009 and since has been a great hit for tourists. Open hours are 10-5 Tuesday-Sunday and until 8PM Fridays-but Mondays close on the off season months after October. Admission is $9, of combo pass with Governor's Palace of $15. There is a combo pass for more museums that is $20 for three of choice of 5 museums state operated.
Old Spanish Colonial Capital building. The Museum inside is really not worth the admission unless you buy the Musuem of New Mexico day pass ($15) which will allow you to visit the museum hill museums also.
This building is one of the oldest in Santa Fe. It was built in 1610 as the home of the Governor. Today, it is a museum that is dedicated to the history of politics in Santa Fe. Great place to go to learn about the history of Santa Fe and New Mexico. Admission is $5 for New Mexico residents and $7 for non-New Mexico residents.
This has been and continues to be a cultural hub of the city. The palace itself is made out of adobe and now functions as a museum on the inside. Outside of the building, you will often find people selling crafts. The museum will allow anyone who tours it a chance to see what life was like during the Spanish colonial rule. You can stand on the spot from where this territory was governed from. This may not be the "palace" one may hope it to be, yet it is the real thing and one of the best places In Sante Fe to go and study its history.
A view from inside the courtyard of the palace built in 1610 that served as the local government center for northern Mexico during the colonial era and later under independent Mexico. The building is also the sight of a daily indian market.