In 1915 the modern era began for this ancient building. Adina Emilia De Zavala (1861–1955), a teacher and one of Texas’s first preservationists, pointed out in a newspaper article that the old stone building across the street from City Hall was more than just a decrepit eyesore–it was, in fact, the remains of one of the oldest and most important structures in the state. She called it the Spanish Governor’s Palace, even though it had actually been the home and office of the local presidio captains and, though substantial, was hardly a palace. She began a 15-year campaign to save the structure from demolition, reconstruct it, and turn it into a museum honoring San Antonio’s Spanish history and heritage.
[Photo of Adina pointing]—
[Caption] Adina Emilia De Zavala, born in 1861 near Houston, was the granddaughter of Lorenzo de Zavala, who was the first vice president of the Republic of Texas in 1836. Adina came to San Antonio in 1886 as a teacher. She founded the De Zavala Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas in 1893 and the Texas Historical and Landmarks Association in 1912.
The City of San Antonio eventually purchased the historic property in 1928 and completed the restoration in 1930 during the formative years of historic preservation in the United States and the height of the Spanish Colonial Revival movement.
The restoration resulted in a structure that was larger than the original building and incorporated an embellished, even romanticized, interpretation of the lives and activities of the families who lived here. This interpretation, although not historically correct, has now become a part of the site’s history. Plaques embedded in the walls in each room during the restoration process illustrate this early interpretation. Text panels detail later, more accurate, research.