Santa Fe, New Mexico, was the seat of power for the Spanish Empire north of the Rio Grande. Santa Fe, is the oldest capital city in North America and the oldest European community west of the Mississippi.
Juan de Oñate became the first Governor-General of New Mexico and established his capital in 1598 at San Juan Pueblo, 25 miles north of Santa Fe. When Oñate retired, Don Pedro de Peralta was appointed Governor-General in 1609. One year later, he had moved the capital to present day Santa Fe.
Santa Fe is the site of both the oldest public building in America, the Palace of the Governors and the nation’s oldest community celebration, the Santa Fe Fiesta, established in 1712 to commemorate the Spanish reconquest of New Mexico in the summer of 1692. Peralta and his men laid out the plan for Santa Fe at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the site of the ancient Pueblo Indian ruin of Kaupoge, or “place of shell beads near the water.”
The city has been the capital for the Spanish “Kingdom of New Mexico,” the Mexican province of Nuevo Mejico, the American territory of New Mexico, and since 1912 the state of New Mexico. Santa Fe, in fact, was the first foreign capital over taken by the United States, when in 1846 General Stephen Watts Kearny captured it during the Mexican-American War.
Santa Fe’s site was originally occupied by a number of Pueblo Indian villages with founding dates from between 1050 to 1150. (very little evidence remains)
When New Mexico gained statehood in 1912, many people were drawn to Santa Fe’s dry climate as a cure for tuberculosis. The Museum of New Mexico had opened in 1909, and by 1917, its Museum of Fine Arts, today called the New Mexico Museum of Art, was built.
In 1926, the Old Santa Fe Association was established, in the words of its bylaws, “to preserve and maintain the ancient landmarks, historical structures and traditions of Old Santa Fe, to guide its growth and development in such a way as to sacrifice as little as possible of that unique charm born of age, tradition and environment, which are the priceless assets and heritage of Old Santa Fe.”
Today, Santa Fe is recognized as one of the most intriguing urban environments in the nation, due largely to the city’s preservation of historic buildings and a modern zoning code, passed in 1958, that mandates the city’s distinctive Spanish-Pueblo style of architecture, based on the adobe and wood construction of the past. Also preserved are the traditions of the city’s rich art and cultural heritage which helps make Santa Fe one of the country’s most diverse and fascinating places to live and visit.