Palace reconstruction work completed
he usual size and function of a “truth window”— which is typically a small rectangle on an outside wall that is left unplastered so people can view the adobe, strawbale, or other construction material— is greatly expanded on one wall at the Palace of the Governors. In this case, the truth window is approximately six feet square and not only reveals the adobe brick wall but also the limestone foundation. And in the wall is an actual window similarly unfinished to show how it was set into the adobes beneath a wooden lintel.
The huge truth window was the idea of Palace of the Governors/New Mexico History Museum director Andrew Wulf. “This is my tiny contribution. I think it’s beautiful,” he said during a September tour of the Palace placita (courtyard), where a major wall-restoration project was recently completed. The interesting rectangle of naked adobes is on the outside west wall of an old storage room that was built at the rear of the 1930 library (now the museum gift shop) facing onWashington Avenue.
The main Palace structure, built in the second decade of the 17th century, is famous as the nation’s oldest public building in continous use, but archaeologist Stephen Post said this particular wall dates to a 1935 project by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. “This building is another story in the Palace,” Post said. “The library was also a federal project. This courtyard project revived our knowledge of the fact that theNewDeal is embedded in the Palace.”
Wulf said the former library storage room is now being renovated to serve as a gallery for display of the Segesser hide paintings. The treasured paintings on stitched bison hides are perhaps three centuries old and may illustrate military expeditions dispatched from the Palace of the Governors in early Spanish-colonial times.
First known as the casas reales— the “royal houses” of the northern government of New Spain— the Palace was much expanded for Indian use during the Pueblo Revolt (1680-1693), then substantially razed and rebuilt by the resettled Spanish under Don Diego de Vargas. The colors flying over the Palace of the Governors changed to a Mexican flag after that country’s independence from Spain in 1821, then an American flag replaced it after the 1846 takeover by StephenWatts Kearny’s U.S. Army of theWest— and the Confederate States of America flew its flag there for a few weeks in 1862, during the CivilWar.
For most of its first three centuries, the Palace was the seat of government for 59 Spanish governors and 20 governors of America’s New Mexico Territory before the construction of territorial, then state, capitol buildings in Santa Fe in 1886, 1900, and 1966.
The Old Palace was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and a National Treasure in January 2015. After the latter designation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation hired lobbyists to help the Palace secure up to $1.5 million from the state Legislature to pay for stabilizing and updating the building. “Last fall, we received $680,000
Andrew Wulf, New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors director, and project archaeologist Stephen Post in front of a very large “truth window” at the Palace of the Governors. Below, the courtyard surrounded by the Palace’s reconstructed, lime-plastered walls in September.