The Spanish Governor’s Palace, at 105 Military Plaza in San Antonio, was constructed in 1749. The name, something of a misnomer, is traditional; the building was not the home of the Spanish governor but served as the residence and headquarters for the local presidio captain. The one-story masonry structure is built in the Spanish Colonial style; in the rear is a large patio. A keystone above the entrance bears the date of construction and the Hapsburg coat of arms. After the end of Spanish sovereignty, the building passed into private ownership. In the late 1860s it was purchased by E. Hermann Altgelt, founder of Comfort in Kendall County. He and his family lived there at various times, and the property was held by his widow, Emma Murck Altgelt, until the early 1900s. Then the building fell into a state of disrepair.
In 1928, voters in San Antonio passed a bond issue for the purpose of purchasing and conserving the building, and in 1929-30 the building was restored under the supervision of architect Harvey P. Smith. Members of the San Antonio Conservation Society aided in restoring and furnishing the historic structure. the In 1962 the building was registered as a recorded Texas historic landmark and is now a national historic landmark. The Spanish Governor’s Palace is maintained by the city of San Antonio as a museum and is open to the public.
The Governor’s Palace is the only remaining example in Texas of an aristocratic early Spanish house. The keystone above the front doors, engraved with a double-headed eagle, a simplified version of the coat of arms of King Ferdinand VI of Spain and the words, “ano 1749 se acabo.” This was the residence of the presidio captain who represented the King of Spain in the Governor’s absence. The sculpture of the Conquistador in front of the house was a gift from Spain in 1977. The structure is the property of the City of San Antonio and is maintained as a museum by the Parks and Recreation Department.
The Legend of the Doors
An old timer who says his father related the story to him, tells a story of the history of Spanish America as written in the symbols carved on the front door of the Spanish Governor’s Palace . . . (Reading from the top right side of the door down):
The seashells represent la Nina, la Pinta, and la Santa Maria as they voyaged from the mother country over the sea. The dragons represent the dangers encountered by the first settlers and the baby face represents the new country, America. The settlers brought with them their arms for protection and they came into the great land of flowers and plenty (resources, gold, silver) where they found the indian. (Continuing on the left hand door reading from the bottom up). The medallion showing the head of the Spanish Conquistador represents the Spaniards who came into this land of flowers and plenty (flower symbols) and by reason of their arms (the shields) conquered all the dangers (the dragons) including the indians (mask of Indian Medicine Man) and so these first settlers won this land for the mother country across the sea.
The Carved Front Door and Chest
The Spanish Governor’s Palace was restored in the early 1930’s under the supervison of Archietect Harvey P. Smith who hired Mansbendel to recreate the doors. Mansbendel also carved a Spanish style chest as gift to the State of Texas.