Santa Fe’s Palace of the Governors is now judged an American Treasure. Constructed in 1610, it’s believed to be the oldest public building in the United States. The historic Santa Fe Trail ended near it. Close to it is the oldest U.S. church, the San Miguel Mission, also built around 1610 and blogged about under “Mysteries of San Miguel” on September 14, 2015. The Palace of Governors is now part of the New Mexico History Museum and instantly recognized by anyone who has visited Santa Fe. Its the building on the square with many Native Americans selling jewelry out front.
The flat-roofed Palace of Governors originally had portholes instead of windows and 4-feet thick walls, a longevity aid. It served under 4 sets of rulers. The first were Spanish colonials from 1540 to 1821. Pueblo Indians ruled for 12 years beginning in 1680 and following a successful revolution that resulted in the killing of 400 Spanish residents. Next, Mexicans were in charge between 1821 and 1846. At this time, however, the real power was in Mexico City and Bill, my Palace of Governors tour guide, told us that Santa Fe was comparable to Siberia in the minds of the governors at that time. Finally, New Mexico became a U.S. Territory for a record-setting 66 years, and the Palace experienced 10 in-residence American governors before becoming a museum in 1909. The most famous governor was Lew Wallace, author of Ben Hur and an acquaintance of Billy the Kid. Billy was born in New York City and stole some food to begin a criminal career that resulted in the killing of 8 men. Three years after the Palace became a museum, New Mexico became a state.
Its admission to The Union was controversial because New Mexico was perceived as too Mexican, too Catholic, and too poor to succeed. I read this in one state museum display. The best permanent exhibits were about World War II and the Navajo Code Talkers, the Manhattan Project, and Fred Harvey, an English immigrant who built a Hilton-like empire by providing fine dining and hotel accommodations in 15 states that were close enough to railroad lines to attract travelers. New Mexico is also severely water deprived. It’s most important river is the Rio Grande that splits the state into two sections and is anything but grande. Will Rogers judged it to be only river in need of irrigation.
Ruth and I explored the New Mexico State Museum before I joined a Palace of Governors docent tour in mid-afternoon. There are free Palace tours given daily by volunteers who seem to be on no fixed schedule I was lucky to access one. I was also lucky to be in this museum when its main temporary exhibit was about Lowriders, a local phenomemon that I blogged about on August 29, 2016.
My 3 favorite experiences on the Palace Tour involved an old stagecoach, this museum’s largest artifact, some old maps, and the chapel room. I spent my time staring at the stagecoach and wondering how 14 people, the usual number of passengers, were able to travel with any degree of comfort. It must have been similar to airline coach service today.
Together, The New Mexico Museum and Palace of Governors result in a 5 Compass travel experience.