Oldest Towns in America

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The United States is home to many historic towns all across the country. These towns are famous for their historic sites and events that took place there.

Here’s a list of some of the oldest towns in the US:

St. Augustine, Florida:

Founded on September 8, 1565 by Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement in the United States.

The city served as the capital of Spanish Florida for over 200 years until Spain ceded Florida to Britain in 1763 after the Seven Years War.

During this time it served as the capital of British East Florida until the British lost the Revolutionary War in 1783. Florida then returned to Spanish control and it again became the capital of Spanish Florida.

St. Augustine, Florida. Entrance gate, circa 1861-1869

In 1821, the Spanish ceded Florida to the United States and St. Augustine became a part of the U.S. territory of Florida.

St. Augustine is home to many historic sites and buildings such as the Castillos De San Marcos, the St. Augustine City Gate, Fountain of Youth Archaeology Park and the Oldest Wooden School House and is also home to the oldest street in America.

Santa Fe, New Mexico:

Established in 1607 by Spanish colonists, Santa Fe became a capital city in 1610, which makes it the oldest state capital in the U.S.

The city also served as the capital of Spanish “Kingdom of New Mexico,” the Mexican province of Nuevo Méjico, and as the principal city for the Spanish Empire north of the Rio Grande.

Santa Fe is famous for its rich history of Native American and Spanish cultures. Records show that indigenous people have been living in the area as far back as 1050.

The city is home to many historic buildings, such as the Palace of the Governors and the San Miguel Chapel, which are the oldest civic building and the oldest church in the U.S.

Jamestown, Virginia:

Founded in 1607 by English settlers from the Virginia Company of London, Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, making it a key site in American colonial history.

Many of these early settlers died during the starving time between 1609-1610, with only 60 of the original 500 settlers surviving.

Old church tower at Jamestown, Virginia, circa 1920

Jamestown was named after King James I and served as the capital of the colony of Virginia from 1616 to 1699.

The town is home to many historic sites and buildings such as the Jamestown Church, the ruins of the 1607 fort, and the ruins of the Statehouse.

Albany, New York:

Albany was established as Fort Orange by the Dutch, in honor of the House of Orange from the royal family of the Netherlands, in 1614, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns in the United States.

Fort Orange was later renamed Albany in 1664. In 1686, Albany was official chartered as a city of the Province of New York and it still serves under this original charter till this day. In 1797, Albany became the capital of New York.

The city is home to many historic sites and buildings such as the Van Ostrande–Radliff House, which is the oldest building in Albany, the Freeman House, and the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site.

Plymouth, Massachusetts:

Founded by the Mayflower Pilgrims in 1620, Plymouth is the oldest town in Massachusetts and is famous for its role in American colonial history.

After the pilgrims came over to Plymouth aboard the Mayflower, they settled in Plymouth in the winter of 1620. The first winter in Plymouth was harsh and many of them died due to starvation and sickness.

The local Wampanoag tribe offered their assistance in teaching the colonists how to survive in New England.

The Pilgrims’ first successful harvest in 1621 led to a feast with the Wampanoag tribe, which is commonly celebrated as the First Thanksgiving.

Plymouth Rock, Plymouth, Mass circa 1925

Plymouth was incorporated as a town in Plymouth Colony in 1620 and was later absorbed by the Province of Massachusetts Bay in 1691.

Plymouth is home to many historic sites such as Plymouth Rock, Old Burial Hill and the Richard Sparrow House. Plymouth is also located in one of the oldest states in America.

Dover, New Hampshire:

Founded in 1623, Dover is the oldest permanent settlement in New Hampshire and one of the earliest in New England. Dover is also located in one of the oldest states in America.

Dover was founded by English settlers William and Edward Hilton as a fishing colony at Hilton Point but its colonial history is marked by many deadly conflicts with Native Americans during the Colonial Wars.

It later became a mill town during the Industrial Revolution and was site of the first labor strike by women in the U.S.

New York City, New York:

Settled as a trading post in 1624 by Dutch settlers, New York City was seized by the English in 1664 and its name was changed from New Amsterdam to New York.

The city played an important role in the American Revolution and even briefly served as the nation’s capital in the late 18th century.

During the 19th century, the city expanded rapidly due to waves of immigrants flocking to the city and the rise of industrialization.

Fifth Avenue, New York City, NY, circa 1865

The city’s iconic skyline took shape in the 20th century with the rise of skyscrapers like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.

The city is home to many historic sites and buildings such as Federal Hall, the African Burying Ground National Monument, Grand Central Terminal, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

Salem, Massachusetts:

Established in 1626, Salem is best known for its 1692 witch trials but it also has a rich colonial and maritime history.

Salem was founded in 1626 by a group of settlers led by Roger Conant. In 1692, Salem was the site of historic Salem Witch Trials during which 19 people were hanged for witchcraft.

As a major seaport, Salem became a hub for maritime trade and shipbuilding in the 18th century. In 1629, Salem was incorporated as a town in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and was incorporated as a city in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1836.

Salem is home to many historic sites such as the Salem Witch House, Proctor’s Ledge where the convicted witches were hanged in 1692, Old Burying Point, and the House of Seven Gables.

Boston, Massachusetts:

Founded in 1630, Boston is famous for its pivotal role in early American history, especially during the American Revolution.

Boston was founded by English Puritans led by John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Company. It was originally known as Shawmut by the local Massachusett tribe who inhabited it.

Boston was incorporated as a town in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in September of 1630 and was designated the capital of the colony. It soon became a major center of trade, commerce, and education in the New England.

Faneuil Hall, Boston, Mass, circa 1890

In the 18th century, Boston became the birthplace of the American Revolution and a number of important historical events took place there such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party and the Siege of Boston.

In 1822, Boston was incorporated as a city in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The city is home to many historic sites such as the Old North Church, the Paul Revere House, Faneuil Hall and Boston Common.

For more info on these historic towns, check out this article on the oldest roads in America which connected many of these towns.

Sources:
“City History.” Albany, NY, albanyny.gov/512/City-History
“A Short History of Jamestown.” National Parks Service, nps.gov/jame/learn/historyculture/a-short-history-of-jamestown.htm
“11 Surprising Facts About Santa Fe New Mexico.” SantaFe.org, santafe.org/blog/post/surprising-facts/
“Our History.” City of St. Augustine, citystaug.com/693/Our-History

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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