New Mexico became America's 47th state on Jan. 6, 1912, signed into statehood by Pres. William Howard Taft.
It took more than half a century for New Mexico to achieve statehood. The U.S. government established the Territory of New Mexico in 1850, two years after Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the end of the Mexican-American War. The terms of the treaty required Mexico to cede its northern land holdings in what is now the American Southwest and California. In 1851, Santa Fe became the capital of this new territory, which sprawled across lands that eventually would become the states of Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.
Santa Fe's history as a capital city dates to 1610, when conquistador Don Pedro de Peralta established it as the capital for the Spanish "Kingdom of New Mexico." The Palace of the Governors, built in 1610, served as Spain's seat of government.
When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, the Mexican government designated Santa Fe as the capital of the Mexican province of Nuevo Mexico, and the Palace continued to serve as the seat of government. In 1846, when the U.S. declared New Mexico an American territory, the Palace became New Mexico's first territorial capitol.
Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the U.S. The Palace of the Governors, which now houses the state's history museum, is the oldest public building in the country.
Today's New Mexico State Capitol, known as the Roundhouse, is the only round capitol building in the country. It was built by Robert E. McKee with a design by W.C. Kruger that combined elements of New Mexico Territorial style, Pueblo adobe architecture and Greek Revival adaptations. The 232,000 square-foot Roundhouse was dedicated on Dec. 8, 1966.
From a bird's-eye view, the Roundhouse resembles the Zia sun symbol, which is also emblazoned on the New Mexico state flag. The image, which originated at Zia Pueblo, incorporates elements representing the sun's rays, the four directions, the four seasons, and the four phases of life. The State Seal of New Mexico, carved in stone, hangs above each of the Roundhouse's four entrance wings.
The four-story Roundhouse includes a subterranean story and a central interior Rotunda that rises 60 feet through the top three stories. The Rotunda's design elements include New Mexico Travertine marble featuring a turquoise and brass mosaic depicting the New Mexico State Seal. The ceiling skylight of stained glass is patterned after a Native American basket weave symbolizing the sky and the earth.
The Capitol Art Collection includes paintings, sculpture, handcrafted furniture and other work by New Mexico artists and artisans. The Governor's Gallery, located on the fourth floor, was founded by Clare Apodaca, who served as New Mexico's First Lady from 1975 to 1978. The gallery, an outreach facility of the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Department of Cultural Affairs, presents six exhibits per year, including the annual Governor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts.
The Roundhouse's 6.5 acre-gardens display sequoias, Russian olive trees, roses and more than 100 other kinds of plants as well as abstract and figurative sculptures.
For information about guided tours of the New Mexico State Capitol by appointment, call (505) 986-4589 during business hours Monday through Friday. Visitors can take a self-guided tour anytime between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
New Mexico State Government
Like the federal government, New Mexico's state government is made up of three branches, the legislative, the executive and the judicial. The New Mexico Legislature consists of the House of Representatives with 70 members serving two-year terms, and the Senate, with 42 members serving four-year terms.
The governor serves for a four-year term. New Mexico's current governor is Gov. Bill Richardson, elected in 2002.