The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004

The Romantic Rhetoric of the Spanish Governor's
Palace, San Antonio, Texas
KENNETH HAFERTEPE*
IN 1915 THE EDUCATOR AND CIVIC ACTIVIST ADINA DE ZAVALA ANNOUNCED
that, unbeknownst to modern-day residents of San Antonio, a ram-
shackle building on the west side of the Military Plaza had once been the
palace of the Spanish Governor (Fig. 1). For more than a decade De
Zavala and her allies urged without success that the building be pur-
chased by the City of San Antonio and restored for use as a museum. The
city finally purchased the old building in 1928, and the next year an advi-
sory committee was named to oversee the restoration of the building and
the development of a museum. San Antonio architect Harvey P. Smith
was hired to direct the restoration-or reconstruction, as it was some-
times more accurately called-and he completed his plans by the end of
1929. The actual reconstruction took place in the first half of 1930, and
it was opened to the public as an historic house museum in July of that
year. Donations throughout the 1930s furnished the palace, and those
furnishings have changed very little since then.
Curiously, there is no reference to this building as the Spanish Gover-
nor's Palace before 1915. Indeed, the only eighteenth-century document
that clearly refers to its use is a 1766 map, on which it is called the "Casa
del Capitan." This paper will recount and analyze the campaign to pre-
serve the building conducted by Adina De Zavala and her associates be-
tween 1915 and 1929 which successfully converted the "Casa del Capi-
tan" into the "Spanish Governor's Palace," and on the intensive
restoration (and reconstruction) carried out between June 1929 and July
*Kenneth Hafertepe is assistant professor of museum studies at Baylor Univeristy. Three of his
books have been pubhshed by the Texas State Historical Association, including Abner Cook. Master
Builder on the Texas Frontier. He would like to thank the staffs of the Texas Collection at Baylor Uni-
versity, the Center for American History and the Alexander Architectural Archives at the Univer-
sity of Texas, the DRT Library in San Antonio, the libraries of the San Antonio Conservation So-
ciety and the Institute of Texan Cultures, John C. Ferguson, Stephen Fox, Thomas L. Charlton,
the anonymous reader, andJestis F. de la Teja.
VOL. CVII, NO. 2 SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY OCTOBER 2003

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101224/. Accessed December 25, 2014.