History

A Hidden San Antonio Treasure: Spanish Governor’s Palace

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In the 1700s, as is still true today, San Antonio was hot property. The rivalry between Spain and France led to many developments in the area: one such example is the Spanish Governor’s Palace. King Philip V of Spain ordered Don Martín de Alarcón, the governor of Coahuila and Texas, to build a mission and presidio at the headwaters of the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek.

In 1722, Alarcón re-established the Presidio San Antonio de Béjar (traditionally known as the Spanish Governor’s Palace) to protect the newly established Mission San Antonio de Valero (later known as the Alamo). Today, this National Historic Landmark can be found at 105 Military Plaza and is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Both self-guided and curated tours are available.

Palace inside

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A fascinating glimpse into early Texas history under Spanish rule, this site was the original office and residence for the captains of the military garrison from 1722 until the early 1800s. While the term ‘palace’ is a bit of a stretch, the inside is furnished with pieces from the Spanish Colonial era, and the outside boasts carefully cultivated gardens centralized around courtyards. Having lived many different lives as saloons, schoolrooms, a garrison, a pawn shop, and a tire shop, the site was revitalized starting in 1915, when Adina Emilia De Zavala (1861–1955) brought attention to its significance to San Antonio’s history.

Photo by Joel A. Byrd

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The two courtyards of the Spanish Governor’s Palace are available to rent for small gatherings and weddings. It is also the site of exciting local events include mercados (marketplaces), costumed history days, and ceremonies. Be sure to check out the doors carved in 1930, which utilize symbolization via seashells, dragons, and a medicine man mask. Come visit this integral part of San Antonio’s past in the heart of the historically beautiful downtown!