The Santa Fe Plaza has long been the city’s historic, cultural and geographic center and is touted as the “Heart of Santa Fe.” Bounded by San Francisco Street and Washington, East Palace, and Lincoln Avenues, the Plaza has played a significant role in New Mexico’s history and contemporary culture; and since Santa Fe’s founding, the Plaza was meant to be a gathering place and it still remains that today.
Don Pedro de Peralta founded Santa Fe in 1610, and the city became the seat of power for the Spanish Empire, with the Plaza being the center of it all. Originally, the Plaza was a presidio (fort) that was surrounded by a large defensive wall, and inside the wall were residences, barracks, a chapel, a prison and the Governor’s Palace. Eventually, the wall was taken down in order to make room for houses of high-ranking Spanish officers and politicians. As the oldest capital city in our country, one of the central points in the plaza is the Palace of the Governors, which is the oldest public building in the country. The Palace was the capitol building of New Mexico and served as the home of Spanish, Mexican, and American governors of New Mexican territory until 1907.
The architecture of the buildings in the Plaza are built in the Pueblo and Spanish Territorial styles. Notable structures in the Plaza are the Palace of the Governors, the La Fonda Hotel, the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Loretto Chapel, and the San Miguel Mission (said to be the oldest church in the continental United States.) The center of the Plaza commemorates the end of the arduous trek on the Santa Fe Trail from Franklin, Missouri.
Since its founding in 1610, the Plaza has been the commercial, social, and political center of Santa Fe. The Plaza is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and is unique because it is known as a gathering place for both tourists and locals. Music, design, jewelry, art and dance are all art forms that can be found on any given day at the plaza. Today, the Plaza is filled with local restaurants, shops, and museums that contribute to the name the “City Different.” It is especially beautiful during the winter holiday season, where the streets and buildings of the Plaza glow with lights and farolitos. The Plaza is also home to many local community events such as the Fiestas de Santa Fe, the Spanish Market, the Indian Market, and Pancakes on the Plaza. The Plaza’s diverse history, culture and charm all play a role in making Santa Fe unique and beautiful and it continues to draw tourists from around the globe to Santa Fe.