The Palace of the Governors, or El Palacio Real, has had many lives since it was built in 1610. Its uses have included a fort, executive mansion, suffrage organization headquarters, and most recently history museum. The Palace of the Governors is the oldest standing structure built by European settlers in the United States. It was constructed under the orders of Don Pedro de Peralta, New Mexico’s first Spanish royal governor. The Palace’s rectangular adobe structure and dirt roof were part of a larger fort that included barracks, offices, an arsenal, a chapel, and a prison. The structure’s Spanish-Pueblo Revival Style combined Spanish features and Pueblo building techniques. Since its construction, the building has undergone multiple stages of disrepair, renovation, and modification. Architectural changes over the course of the building’s history have been largely due to the number of different functions it has served over the past 400 years.
From 1610 to 1885, the building housed the Spanish, Mexican, and American governments of New Mexico. It also served as the governor’s residence from 1610-1907. The Palace has housed other government offices, law offices, a courthouse, a post office, and a library. In 1912, New Mexico become a state, but its constitution excluded voting rights for women and Native Americans. Rules in New Mexico’s constitution assured protections to Spanish speaking men (who had only narrowly received the vote themselves), but made passing a women’s suffrage bill by referendum or amendment almost impossible. Consequently, New Mexico suffragists focused their efforts on the passage of a national amendment.
In 1915, the New Mexico chapter of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU) established its headquarters at the Chamber of Commerce in the Palace of the Governors. On February 28, 1916, the organization hosted its first suffrage convention in the Hall of Representatives. At the convention, resolutions were passed and sent to both houses of Congress calling on legislators for the immediate passage of a national women’s suffrage amendment.
From its founding, Hispano and Anglo suffragist Adelina “Nina” Otero-Warren served as a vice-chairman for the New Mexico CU. She was also a long-term member of the CU’s National Advisory Council. Following the New Mexico chapter’s first meeting, Nina left for Washington, D.C. to gain insight about congressional attitudes surrounding suffrage and to learn how to best organize the New Mexico branch. As the cousin of a former territorial governor, the step-daughter of a judicial clerk, and the Santa Fe County superintendent of Public Instruction, Nina was poised to use her connections and experience to advance the suffrage cause.
In 1917, Nina was elected to lead the New Mexico branch and join the National Committee of State Chairmen. CU founder Alice Paul recognized that Hispano votes in New Mexico were essential to pass a national constitutional amendment. Descended from some of the earliest settlers in New Mexico during the Spanish occupation, Nina was a perfect choice. To connect with Hispano voters, Nina and other local suffragists ensured suffrage materials were printed in both Spanish and English. In 1922, Nina ran for the U.S. House of Representatives as New Mexico’s Republican nominee. Despite winning the primary, she was defeated in the general election by less than 9%. Nevertheless, she continued serving in other government roles including Santa Fe County’s Inspector of Indian Schools, Chairman of New Mexico’s Board of Health, American Red Cross executive board member, and Works Project Administration director of an adult literacy program.
The Palace of the Governors currently houses the Museum of New Mexico. In 1934, the building was documented in the Historic American Buildings Survey. On October 9, 1960, the Palace of the Governors was designated as a National Historic Landmark. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.
The content for this article was researched and written by Jade Ryerson, an intern with the Cultural Resources Office of Interpretation and Education.
Allender, Nina E. and W.T. Burch, eds. “Campaign Through the Country.” The Suffragist: Weekly Organ of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage 3, no. 43 (October 23, 1915): 7.
Allender, Nina, S. Ada Flatman, Elizabeth Smith, and W.T. Burch. “Comments of the Press: Our First Suffrage Convention.” The Suffragist: Weekly Organ of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage 4, no. 10 (March 4, 1916): 5.
Allender, Nina, S. Ada Flatman, Elizabeth Smith, and W.T. Burch. “Congressional Union is Organized in New Mexico.” The Suffragist: Weekly Organ of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage 4, no. 11 (March 11, 1916): 7.
Clarke, Pauline and Vivian Pierce, eds. “Nation-Wide Tour Closes in Washington.” The Suffragist: Official Weekly Organ of the National Woman’s Party 5, no. 98 (December 8, 1917): 12.
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Historic American Buildings Survey, Creator, and Don Juan Onate. El Palacio Real de Santa Fe, Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, NM. New Mexico Santa Fe Santa Fe County, 1933. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph.
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Karaim, Reed. “The History and Intrigue of Santa Fe’s Place of the Governors.” Preservation Magazine, Winter 2018.
National Park Service. “Nina Otero-Warren.” Last updated June 27, 2019.
New Mexico University Libraries. “Celebrating the Right of Women to Vote in New Mexico.” Research Guides. Accessed January 22, 2020.
New Mexico NHL Palace of the Governors (77847016); National Register of Historic Places and National Landmarks Program Records: New Mexico; National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013-2017; Records of the National Park Service, 1785-2006, Record Group 79; Santa Fe County, NM. Accessed January 21, 2020.
New Mexico State Record. “State Teachers Meet Certain to Draw Big Crowd Dec. 26, 27, and 28.” November 22, 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress.
Santa Fe New Mexican. "National and State Suffrage Leaders Attend Albuquerque December 4th and 5th." November 29, 1919.
Ybarra, Priscilla Solis. “Who Was Nina Otero Warren.” Nina Otero Community. Accessed January 21, 2020.