When we want to see old cities, we often go to Europe where we can find many medieval towns and ancient castles. America is called the New World for a very good reason; it’s fairly modern in comparison to European countries. In addition, in the US there’s this tendency to think that newer is better, while in Europe there’s a certain passion of preserving the past. But there is still some history to be found in our very own country, especially when you visit the oldest city in America.
But the question is: which is the oldest city in America? Let’s take a look.
Saint Augustine, Florida
It is the oldest city in America based on year of foundation. This one is pretty much straightforward. The year of foundation is a fact, so you just generate a list of cities which has the earliest foundation years. And the oldest of them all is Saint Augustine, Florida.
This city was founded way back in 1565. In American terms, this is positively ancient, as this is the only US city that was founded in the 14th century. To put it in historical perspective, the Spaniards founded this place 42 years before the English founded Jamestown and 55 years before the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth Rock. In 1565, famous historical figures such as Sir Francis Bacon, Galileo, and William Shakespeare weren’t even born yet, and Elizabeth of the House of Tudor was not yet crowned as Queen.
Saint Augustine, Florida is the place where you can find the oldest wooden school house as well as the oldest street in America. Though most of the earliest structures were destroyed over the years, the “Oldest House” in Saint Augustine was supposedly built in the mid to late 1600s.
Now everyone knows that the US is a former British colony. So if you’re curious about the oldest city in America founded by England, it is Jamestown in Virginia. It was founded by the Virginia Company of London.
You can find the “Historic Jamestowne” (the extras “e” at the end is for authenticity) at the original site, and here you can find the original 1607 James Fort, the 17th-century church tower and the site of the 17th-century town. There’s also a nice museum called the Archaearium, where you can find almost 2 million artefacts. You can still see the archaeologists at work, or take a living history tour.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe isn’t just the oldest city in New Mexico, but the oldest continuously inhabited state capital in the US. That may seem a bit odd considering that New Mexico only became a state in 1912, but not when you factor in the fact that the Spaniards colonized it in the 1600s. Santa Fe itself was founded as a Spanish settlement in 1607, the same year as Jamestown.
If you’re looking for historical tourist spots, the downtown area is a good place to start. Look for the Palace of the Governors as well as the one-block square next to it known as the Plaza.
If you’re interested in architecture, check out the New Mexico State Capitol, Santuario de Guadalupe, the San Miguel Mission and the rest of the Barrio De Analco Historic District, the Loretto Chapel, and the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. Of particular note is the de Vargas Street House, which was once considered as the oldest house in the US. While that may not be totally accurate, it’s still one of the oldest buildings in the US.
You should also take a look at the “Museum Hill”, where you can find the major art museum in Santa Fe. And perhaps you can time your visit in the second weekend of July, when they hold the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.
Other Older Cities
There are lots of other older cities in the US, especially in the East Coast where the earliest settlers lived. You can visit Virginia, where you can find Hampton (founded in 1610), Kecoughtan (also 1610), and Newport News (1613). New York City was founded in 1624 by the Dutch.
Massachusetts also has lots of very old cities, such as the famous Plymouth (1620), Weymouth (1622), Gloucester (1623), the infamous Salem (1626), Lynn (1629), and Charleston (1629).
The oldest cities in New York are Albany (1614) and New Amsterdam (1625). You can also visit Jersey City (1617) in New Jersey and Dover (1623) in New Hampshire.
Now if you want pre-colonial kind of old, you can visit Sky City (also known as Acoma) in New Mexico. Archaeologists have discovered that it has been continuously occupied since 1200 by Native American tribes, and some of the more recent excavations suggest that people have been living here since the time of Jesus Christ.
Oldest Cities in Terms of Population
Now maybe you don’t want to see old buildings, and instead you want to live in cities where you can find the oldest people. Maybe you’re an old person yourself and you want to hang out with people your age, or maybe you want to talk to older people who have personal knowledge of “ancient times” when there was no Internet and people still used pay phones on the road.
If that’s the case, your top bets are:
- Scottsdale, Arizona. This city has the oldest population among US places with more than 100,000 people. The city’s median age is 45.4 years, and “median” means that half of the people there are older e. This median age is 8 years higher than the US average.
- Clearwater, Florida. The state of Florida is well-known as a retiree’s paradise and Clearwater is the oldest of them all with a median age of 43.8 years. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, people especially love the beaches and the mild climate.
- Cape Coral, Florida. The median age is 42.4 years, and you have 400 miles of canals as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the Caloosahatchee River. You won’t have any trouble looking for waterfront property here.
It’s not a coincidence that these areas are among the most popular retirement places in the whole country.
So there you go. If you’re looking for old places or old people, now you know where to look to find the oldest city in America.