Oldest Buildings in America

America is home to many old and historic buildings dating as far back as the 11th century. These buildings are considered some of the oldest of their kind and visiting them is like taking a walk through American history.

The following is a list of the oldest buildings in America:

Taos Pueblo (New Mexico):

Website: taospueblo.com

An ancient pueblo located in New Mexico, Taos Pueblo is also among the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the U.S., with buildings dating back over a thousand years.

Taos Pueblo was likely built sometime between 1000 and 1450 A.D. The Pueblo is made entirely of adobe, which is earth mixed with water and straw poured into forms or made into sun dried bricks. The buildings are about five stories high with walls several feet thick and a roof made of packed dirt.

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico in 1880

The interior walls are coated with thin washes of white earth. There are no windows or doorways and the only access is via a ladder through the roof.

The site also features a church, San Geronimo Chapel, which was built in 1850 to replace the previous church, originally built in 1619 but was destroyed during the War with Mexico by the U.S. Army in 1847.

About 150 people still live within the pueblo. In 1965, Taos was declared a National Historic landmark and was admitted to the World Heritage Society in 1992.

Acoma Pueblo (New Mexico):

Website: www.acomaskycity.org/page/home

Located in New Mexico, Acoma Pueblo, which is also known as Sky City, is also considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States, with structures dating back to the 12th century.

Acoma Pueblo is a Native American pueblo built around 924 years ago in the year 1100 A.D. Built on top of a 357-foot-tall cliff, it is believed that the location was chosen because of its defensive position against raiders.

The village at one time contained about 500 houses and the buildings were about three or four stories high. The interiors were white washed and had earthen floors. There were no doors and access to the rooms was obtained through the roof by means of a ladder.

Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico circa 1899 – 1928

The village is now a combination of ruins and modern adobe dwellings in three parallel east/west rows, each about 220-225 years long and about 25 to 30 feet wide. The buildings are typical Pueblo-style flat roofed with thick adobe and sometimes stone walls which taper towards their tops.

Most of the upper stories have been torn down and modern doors and windows have been added. The village is almost completely uninhabited at present but most Acoma families have kept at least a room in the town, mostly for ceremonial events.

Also located in the village is the church and mission complex, San Estevan del Ray, which was built sometime between 1629 and 1642. Both the church and the pueblo are still used by the Acoma Indians for ceremonial purposes.

Acoma Pueblo was designated a National Historic Landmark on October 9, 1960 and was added to the National Register of Historical Places on October 15, 1966.

Palace of the Governors (New Mexico):

Website: www.nmhistorymuseum.org/about/campus/the-palace-of-the-governors.html

Located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Palace of Governors is an adobe structure built in 1610 that served as the Capitol Building of New Mexico. This makes it the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States in one of the oldest towns in America.

The palace is a large, one-story Spanish-Pueblo-style building with a series of rooms that enclose a courtyard.

The Palace of Governors was designated a National Historical Landmark on October 9, 1960 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.

San Miguel Mission (New Mexico):

Website: www.missionsanmiguel.org

Located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, San Miguel Mission is believed to be the oldest church in the United States, built sometime between 1610 and 1626.

The original adobe walls and altar were built by Spanish-allied Tlaxcalan Indians who came to New Mexico from Mexico. The church is two stories tall with adobe walls that are five-feet-thick and a bell tower.

San Miguel Church, Santa Fe, New Mexico circa 1879 -1885

The church was rebuilt twice, once in 1640 after it was partially destroyed by Governor Luis de Rojas and again in 1710 after it was destroyed in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

The San Miguel Mission was added to the National Register of Historical Places on November 24, 1968.

Fairbanks House (Massachusetts):

Website: fairbankshouse.org

Located in Dedham, Massachusetts, the Fairbanks House is a First Period house built in 1637, making it the oldest surviving wood frame house in North America.

The original house was a gable-roofed two-story house with a small porch, two main rooms and two bedrooms. Further additions were built later in the 17th century. The house was home to the Fairbanks family for eight generations before becoming a historic house museum in 1904.

Old Fairbanks House, Dedham, Mass in 1899

A unique aspect of the Fairbanks House is the presence of hex marks, a type of folk magic used to ward away witches or evil spirits, on the fireplace and the presence of shoes behind the fireplace which were believed to to have been placed there to prevent evil spirits from entering the house.

The Fairbanks House was designated a National Historic Landmark on October 9, 1960 and was added to the National Register of Historical Places on October 15, 1966.

C.A. Nothnagle Log House:

Website: No website (Privately Owned House)

Located in Gibbstown, New Jersey, the C.A. Nothnagle Log House is a log cabin built in 1638, making it one of the oldest log cabins in America.

The older part of the house was built between 1638 and 1643 by Scandinavian settlers. The house is 16 feet by 20 feet and has a loft. A large addition was later built in the 18th century and a wood floor was built over the original dirt floor in 1730.

Aside from its age, what also makes the cabin unique is it has a corner fireplace which is a feature common in Scandinavian-built cabins that is known as the “Swedish Plan.”

The house was also built using the corner post construction technique, which is when large timbers are joined together at the corners without the use of nails or spikes, and is considered an old form of construction in Europe brought to North America by European immigrants.

C.A. Nothnagle Log House was added to the New Jersey Register of Historic Places on January 14, 1972 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 23, 1976.

Henry Whitfield House:

Website: portal.ct.gov/ecd-henrywhitfieldstatemuseum

Located in Guilford, Connecticut, the Henry Whitfield House is a historic stone house built in 1639. It is considered Connecticut’s oldest house and New England’s oldest stone house.

The house was built by Reverend Henry Whitfield, a Puritan minister who led a group of English settlers to establish the town of Guilford in the Connecticut Colony.

Built of granite, the house was one of the Connecticut colony’s four stone houses that functioned as defensive buildings and private homes.

Henry Whitfield House in Guilford, Connecticut

The building is two-stories high with thick battered stone walls and a steeply pitched wood-shingled gabled roof. The thick stone walls and fortified design were meant to provide protection from possible attacks by Native Americans.

The house was partially rebuilt in 1868 and was first restored in 1902 and restored again in the 1930s to resemble its original 1640 appearance.

In 1900, the house opened as a historic house museum owned and operated by the State of Connecticut.

The Henry Whitfield House was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 27, 1972 and was designated a National Historic Landmark on September 25, 1997.

These are just a few examples of the oldest buildings in America, showcasing the diverse architectural heritage of the country.

Sources:
Dalbey, Beth. “Country’s Oldest Log Cabin Sells In NJ After $2.6M Price Cut.” Patch.com, 20 Oct. 2023, patch.com/new-jersey/across-nj/nj-oldest-still-standing-log-cabin-sells-after-2-6m-price-cut
“About.” Fairbanks House Historical Site, fairbankshouse.org/about-history/
“History of San Miguel Chapel.” San Miguel Chapel, sanmiguelchapel.org/
“About Taos Pueblo.” Toas Pueblo, taospueblo.com/about
“Acoma Pueblo (Sky City).” NewMexico.org, newmexico.org/native-culture/native-communities/acoma-sky-city/

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the author and publisher of Historic Sites USA. Rebecca is a freelance journalist and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in New England after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism.

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