Founded c.1609 by the Spanish on the site of prehistoric Native American ruins, it became a center of Spanish trade with local ethnic groups. A seat of government since its founding, it is the oldest capital city in the United States. In the Pueblo revolt of 1680, the Spanish colonists were driven out; in 1692 they returned under Diego de Vargas. Shortly after Mexico gained independence from Spain (1821), extensive commerce with the United States developed by way of the Santa Fe Trail. In 1846, the region became a U.S. territory. The railroad reached Lamy (the station for Santa Fe, 16 mi/26 km distant) in 1879.
The seat of an archbishopric since 1875, the city, with its many churches, is a Roman Catholic center. Points of interest are the Palace of the Governors (c.1610), which houses a state museum; the Laboratory of Anthropology, with a museum of Spanish colonial art; museums of international folk art, Navajo ceremonial art, and contemporary Native American art; an exhibition hall for contemporary art; and a museum devoted to the artist Georgia O'Keeffe. There are artists' and writers' colonies and many art galleries, the Santa Fe Opera in the summer, the restored Lensic Theater, St. John's College, the College of Santa Fe, a Native American school, and a state school for the deaf. The city is the headquarters for the Santa Fe National Forest and regional headquarters for the National Park Service.
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