Spanish Governor’s Palace

Posted by junketseo in San Antonio Ghost Tours
Spanish Governor’s Palace - Photo

The white adobe facade of San Antonio’s Spanish Governor’s Palace drips with history. The markings of its 275 years basking in the Texas sun streak down from the roof, like a rot threatening the future of the iconic structure. Though named a palace, it is anything but. In fact, before adopting the more regal monicker, it was a captain’s quarters for the Spanish defense of western Texas.


The dwelling has been passed down from generation to generation, each part of the lineage leaving its mark before passing on and bequeathing it to the next. For years, the building had military ties. Whispered tales of hanging trees and nearby burial grounds add to the allure and mystery of the now-city-owned property. What started as a simple single office room made of adobe brick has blossomed into an engaging piece of local history and a must-see haunted location in San Antonio.


Once a Comandancia for a captain of the Spanish military forces, the palace is now a gold mine of historical information. And, for those really paying attention, it is an active site for the unearthly to patrol.


Why is the Spanish Governor’s Palace haunted?


With the documented hanging trees and burial grounds, it’s no wonder a spirit or several still reside within the white structure. Keep reading to learn more. And to discover the most haunted places in San Antonio, book a ghost tour with River City Ghosts!


The Palace and the Hanging Tree


Today, the Spanish Governor’s Palace is a larger structure spanning several rooms. When it was first built around 1722, one room was used as an office for Jose de Urrutia, the captain of Spanish forces in Texas. Though Urrutia was compensated well for managing a garrison of supplies, he was left to devise his own quarters, which he did, quite modestly, with the Comandancia.


Expansions to the captain’s house came after 1740, when Urrutia’s son, Toribio, took over the post. Within a decade, Toribio had expanded the property to include three additional rooms made of rubble stone. To help combat the summer heat, Toribio built the rooms with 14-foot ceilings and sported floors of hard-packed earth. From canals that kept rainwater from gathering to a royal coat-of-arms of the Hapsburg Dynasty to honor Spanish King Ferdinand VI, the Comandancia started to show a unique personality.


Twenty-three years after Toribio inherited the palace from his father, he passed it down to his nephew, Luis Antonio Menchaca. The change of hands not only gave Menchaca a project, as he sought to increase the space by adding six rooms, but also made him unknowingly responsible for lingering darkness tied to the presidio’s Tree of Sorrows. The hanging tree was the stand-in for a lack of a jail for years. On the site of the tree, criminals were tried and judged, and their punishment was delivered swiftly on its branches.


Whether Menchaca knew of the lingering spirits tied to the tree is unknown, but it wouldn’t matter for long. He eventually sold the Urrutia-Menchaca residence to Juan Ignacio Perez, the latest captain of San Antonio de Bexas and future interim Texas governor. 


All while the palace was being expanded upon and bequeathed from owner to owner, the presidio (or fort) surrounding it was engaged in ongoing conflicts and tensions that left a heavy residual energy. The surrounding area was known for attacks by Indigenous people and its role in the Texan and Mexican wars for independence. Legends started to turn into ghost stories, like the deaths at the well, and the restless many lost on and near the comandancias were difficult to ignore. 


After Mexico had earned its independence and Texas approached its statehood, the neighborhood surrounding the presidio changed drastically.


The Palace Deteriorates


Under Perez, the Comandancia shifted from a military to a commercial focus. Shops popped up, taking over whatever open space owners could find in the plaza near the Spanish Governor’s Palace.  Hardware stores and other shops allowed merchants to sell their goods while a schoolhouse educated the local population. Though a new city hall and jail were erected in 1850, effectively ending the hangings at the tree, the former captain’s quarters slowly dipped into disrepair. Before long, the beautiful structure that started as a one-room office for the captain was rundown and decayed. 


When Perez drafted his will, he hoped to divide the rooms between his widow and daughters upon his passing. Though that’s not how it was divided, the building remained within the Perez family as Meria Josefa Perez Linn’s daughter, Concepcion Linn, and her husband, Frank T. Walsh, gained full ownership. Shortly after this time, the old, deteriorating building was finally given the name the Spanish Governor’s Palace.”


Texas preservationist Adina De Zavala saw the historical and cultural importance of the former captain’s office and wrote a column for the San Antonio Express. In it, she called it the Spanish Governor’s Palace, connecting it with San Antonio’s Spanish Colonial roots. Thirteen years after De Zaval wrote the article, San Antonio purchased the abode from the Walshes.


During a series of reconstructions spearheaded by architect Harvey P. Smith, the palace was converted into a museum, and the San Antonio Conservation Society was awarded operations. Management of the property was eventually handed over to San Antonio’s Center City Development and Operations Department, but the ghosts of the palace’s past still had free reign over the grounds. 


The Hauntings of the Governor’s Palace


With the hanging tree so heavily connected to the site of the Governor’s Palace, it’s not unfathomable to think that the souls of the convicted would still reside near the former captain’s quarters. Are they the garbled voices heard on countless EVPs? Or the shadows that many have claimed to see lurking in their peripheral vision. 


Maybe these spirits are even more tragic, like the young girl murdered by robbers at the courtyard well, the child who fell to the bottom of the well and died, or the young boy who died mysteriously in the palace. The whispers and giggles of young girls are common at the palace, their spirits making the most of their eternity in San Antonio. 


Guests also talk of a Lady in Grey, who could very well be the figment of a creative mind or the remnants of an unspoken tragedy. She’s been spotted standing at the palace’s windows, peering at whoever steps foot on the nearby grounds. Who she may be is known, though it’s believed she was one of the Captain’s visitors who died a mysterious and unspoken death. 


Are you intrigued by the haunts of the Spanish Governor’s Palace? The former military garrison stands as one of the best-haunted locations in San Antonio, serving up a blend of fascinating history and hair-raising ghost stories. Be sure to check out our blog and visit our socials on  Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok for even more ghostly thrills in Texas and San Antonio.