¡Que Viva! A New Day for the Palace


Workers are getting ready to apply new stucco, repair roofs, improve heating and cooling, change the landscaping and more at the Palace of the Governors, a 400-year-old National Treasure in the heart of historic Santa Fe. Begun in 1609–1610 as the seat of Spain’s North American colony, the Pueblo Revival building became the flagship of the state’s museum system in 1909. In recent years, it has drawn preservationists’ fears, most critically because of its 1970s cement stucco on the interior courtyard’s wall.

Now, thanks to a $400,000 infusion from the Department of Cultural Affairs and another $680,000 from the state Legislature’s recent session, that water-trapping stucco will be stripped off and replaced with a breathable lime plaster. Stucco around the rest of the building will be patched up, workers will install new roofs above the Palace gift shop and Meem Community Room, and the Palace’s capricious heating-and-cooling system will be tied into the New Mexico History Museum’s more reliable one.

Other repairs include replacing approximately 18 viga ends along the Palace Portal, fixing whatever damage is revealed when existing stucco is peeled off, and smoothing the rumpled brick sidewalks on the sides of the building to make them wheelchair-friendly. The $680,000 allocation will help pay for even more work at the New Mexico History Museum, including replacing doors that have settled poorly and, in some cases, contributed to a problem with rain leaks.

“We’re grateful to Governor Susana Martínez, state legislators, and Cultural Affairs Secretary Veronica Gonzales for seeing the importance of caring for the Palace. We pledge to be wise stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” said Andrew Wulf, director of the New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors. “This building stands as a testament to the deep roots of Native, Spanish, Mexican and American life in the United States. We want it to show off its best attributes for years to come and ensure that guests from around the world are safe and comfortable.”

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Pearly White to Chocolate Brown: The Color of Mud

SOC-SantaFe-colorWhen Museum Hill properties banded together to create the “Summer of Color,” they asked downtown museums and galleries to mount their own color-based shows. But our galleries were already filled with exhibits (colorful ones, no less), so we were initially stumped.

Then the National Trust for Historic Preservation declared the Palace of the Governors a National Treasure, and a brainstorm erupted. Why not capitalize on the attention being given to the Palace’s maintenance needs by hosting programs about the building and other adobe structures? Thus was born “Adobe Summer,” a series of free events dedicated that most basic of building materials, mud.

The Palace of the Governors, ca. 1915, by Jesse Nusbaum. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives 013045.

The Palace of the Governors, ca. 1915, by Jesse Nusbaum. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives 013045.

If all goes well, contractors will begin replastering the Palace Courtyard this summer, giving everyone an intimate glimpse into how adobe works. Beyond new plaster and, likely, a few new adobe bricks, the building needs new hardwood floors, a new roof, improved electrical systems, and some type of fire-suppression equipment that won’t imperil the adobe walls. After the structural work is done, we aim to re-do the exhibits to more fully tell the story of the building itself.

Join us for Adobe Summer, including these events:

  • Sunday, May 31, 2–3 pm: “Restoring the 1785 Roque Lobato House in Santa Fe.” A panel discussion and book signing with author Chris Wilson, architect Beverly Spears, and Alan “Mac” Watson, vice chairman of the Historic Santa Fe Foundation, on the successful renovation of this historic home.
  • Sunday, June 28, 1:30–3:30 pm: Make sand casts of your hands for a family keepsake.
  • Saturday, July 25, 1–3 pm:“Earthen Architecture—Past, Present and Future.” Get a multicultural perspective of how communities preserve adobe structures, featuring Jake Barrow, program director for Cornerstones Community Partnerships; Tomacita Duran, executive director of the Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority; and artist Nicasio Romero of the Villanueva Valley.
  • Friday, Aug. 7, 6 pm: “Wars, Revolts, and Defining Collective Memory in the Context of the Great Pueblo Revolt,” a talk by archaeologist and author Jason Shapiro.
  • Friday, Aug. 28, 6 pm: “El Presidio de Santa Barbara: Its Founding, Heyday, Decline, and Rebirth.” Jarrell Jackman, executive director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, speaks on the renovation of that city’s 1782 Spanish presidio.

Any day, everyday: Wander the Palace and try to hear the whispers of its past, from its massive walls to its thick vigas to the floor hatches revealing its earliest foundations. Pilar Cannizzaro, preservation planning manager for the state Historic Preservation Division, said she fell in love with the building the first time she walked through in 1984.

“The rich history, the monumental architecture, the fact that it faces the plaza and is such a part of it,” she said. “Every part of it is magical.”

Our Treasure, Now the Nation’s

013045_72_5x3On January 28, the National Trust for Historic Preservation made official what many of us have long known to be true: The Palace of the Governors is a National Treasure. In a special event that included Mayor Javier Gonzales and Cultural Affairs Secretary Veronica Gonzales, the nonprofit organization pulled the Palace into a lineup that includes the likes of Nashville’s Music Row, Theodore Roosevelt’s North Dakota Elkhorn Ranch, and Miami’s Marine Stadium.

The listing helps us draw attention to the Palace as we seek $1.5 million from legislators for critical repairs to the building. The Museum of New Mexico Foundation is simultaneously launching a $3.5 million campaign to fund renovations to the exhibits.

The Trust noted that Palace construction began in 1610 and serves as a testament to the depth of Hispanic roots in the American story.

“Growing up here in Santa Fe,” Javier Gonzales said, “this was our backyard. It is a source of tremendous community pride.”

Barbara Pahl, western vice president for the trust, said she first learned of the Palace in college when an architecture professor dubbed it one of the 10 best examples of architecture in America.

“We’re proud to be able to work at your side to ensure the funds are available…now and for future generations,” she said.

How can you help? Start by clicking here to electronically declare your support. Then come visit. Pick up a survey at our front desk and share your story of the Palace. Write to your legislators. Show you care by posting a message on your Facebook page. And look forward to “Adobe Summer,” a series of programs we’re developing to deepen everyone’s understanding of the Palace and the Southwest’s greenest, most popular building medium.

After the announcement, historian, archaeologists and re-enactors fanned out across the campus to talk with visitors about the Palace. Tom Leech and James Bourland created a keepsake bookmark on the Estancia Press. Los Compadres generously provided refreshments and worked various work posts. We were honored by the support and thrilled at the thought of the new day to come for our favorite National Treasure. Please enjoy these images taken by Digital Imaging Specialist Hannah Abelbeck of the Photo Archives.

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