Room 6 at the Palace of the Governors
We perceive historic structures as static, but they were once dynamic parts of their communities. This is the third (and last for a while) progress report on our work in Room 6 of the Palace (of the Governors). Our interpretations are tentative until artifacts and samples have been analyzed and until we have tried to prove ourselves wrong, but this is our current model. It takes advantage of historic records augmented by archaeology.
Prior to circa 1866, the area of Room 6 was a portion of a small corral. Room 5 was to the south but other corral boundaries are unknown. Under the corral surface were cobble foundations of earlier demolished buildings, animal waste, ash dumps, and light scatters of historic trash.
In 1866, the west end of the Palace was demolished to make way for Lincoln Avenue. An adobe wall was built to separate the animals from Lincoln Avenue. The new wall extended north from the Room 5 west wall (the new west end of the Palace). After 1868 but before 1877, Room 6 was created over the southwest corner of the corral, using the Lincoln Avenue wall as the west wall of the room and using the north wall of Room 5 as the new room's south wall. The other walls were constructed of adobe bricks on cobble foundations. The floor may have been the dirt of the corral, but later floor construction has eliminated direct evidence of the earlier floor. Room 6 provided offices for the US Marshall and an attorney.
In 1880–1881, major remodeling within Room 6 included cutting into the corral surface for a new level subfloor, digging trenches for acetylene gas lines, and removing the trench fill from the room area. Pipes for gas lights on the east and west interior walls were laid, but without backfilling the trenches. Floor joists rested on the level subfloor while joist ends were notched to rest on joist plates supported against the existing west and east walls. Stones were used to fill interjoist spaces above the plates, keeping the joists spaced and upright.
Before floorboards were installed on the joists, at least one window to the courtyard was cut into the east wall, and a doorway into Room 5 was either cut or enlarged. Debris from these demolitions was left within the joist spaces and within the gas line trenches but did not fill the spaces or trenches. In 1882, the Lincoln Avenue face of the remodeled room is depicted in J. J. Stoner's Bird's Eye View of the City of Santa Fe map. A narrow boardwalk and portal face the street, and a doorway is flanked by windows. Room 6 was office space at this time, but in 1888 it was taken over as part of the post office at the west end of the Palace, and it remained as the post office until 1909.
Electricity displaced acetylene gas beginning in 1890, the west end of the Palace was refurbished multiple times, but the Room 6 footprint was stable. At some point the gas lines above the floor were disconnected. The New Mexico History Museum took over the Palace in 1909, but even Jesse Nusbaum's extensive remodeling of other areas of the Palace didn't impact below the floor of Room 6. Small repairs to the floor itself were made.
Written by Eric Blinman, Ph.D. the Director of the Office of Archaeological Studies
This article is from the Friends of Archaeology Newsletter November 2022.