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Historical Background

Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

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Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

National Historic Landmark SANTA FE
New Mexico

Location: Santa Fe County.

The second oldest city in the United States, Santa Fe still reflects to a remarkable degree—in its architecture, customs, people, and language—its Indian-Spanish-Mexican heritage. Site of an ancient Indian village and since 1610 capital of New Mexico under Spain, Mexico, and the United States, La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco (The Royal City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis) is truly the "Cradle of the Southwest." As in few other places in the United States, the blend of cultures that resulted from Spanish settlement can be seen and experienced.

Pueblo- and Territorial-style buildings line the narrow streets; Spanish language and customs predominate; historic sites and buildings abound. Santa Fe—also a modern art and cultural center—has made special efforts to preserve its heritage. A number of excellent museums, most of them units of the Museum of New Mexico, trace the history of this ancient city and its environs from the days of prehistoric Indians, through the Spanish and Mexican periods, to the present.

The focal point on the plaza in Santa Fe is the Palace of the Governors, a Registered National Historic Landmark. The plaza itself—also a Registered National Historic Landmark (relating primarily to the Santa Fe Trail)—has significant associations with early Indian-Spanish history. The Spanish used it for official, religious, and military functions. In fact, the entire pageantry of 17th-century Spanish conquest and settlement, Pueblo Revolt, and Spanish reconquest reached their climax in or near the plaza.

Among the many other important sites and buildings throughout the city of Santa Fe associated with the Spanish period are:

(1) Chapel of San Miguel. Originally built by Fray Alfonso de Benavides in 1626, this chapel is one of the oldest in the United States. It was partially destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. After the reconquest, in 1692, it was rebuilt on the same site and for the next 50 years served as the military chapel of Santa Fe. Impressive carved altar decorations, historic paintings—some dating from the 13th century—and a bell said to have been cast in Spain in 1536 are interesting features. An excellent example of an 18th-century Spanish chapel, San Miguel still serves as a parish church.

(2) Rosario Chapel. Standing in the old Spanish cemetery northwest of Santa Fe, this chapel was originally built by De Vargas on the spot where his army camped while besieging Santa Fe during the reconquest of 1692. Rebuilt in 1807 and still used as a church, it is the starting point for the De Vargas procession, which commemorates the reconquest annually during Fiesta.

(3) Guadalupe Church. Built about 1795, this still-active parish church is the oldest shrine in the United States dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe.

(4) Barrio de Analco. This district, which surrounds the Chapel of San Miguel, was occupied by Mexican Indians who came north with the Spaniards. During the Pueblo Revolt it was razed, but after the reconquest it became the residential section for soldiers, servants, Indians, and genizaros (halfbreeds). Its historic buildings and narrow, winding streets make it one of the most picturesque sections of the city.

Numerous residences and commercial buildings also date from the Spanish period. Among them are the Gregorio Crespin House, the so-called "Oldest House," El Zaguan, and the Borrego House. Many of these fine old buildings have been marked with plaques by the Historic Santa Fe Foundation.

NHL Designation: 12/19/60

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Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005