Time-Tested: America's 5 Oldest Cities

Time-Tested: America's 5 Oldest Cities

Traveling Across the US 2023-11-23 ParkingNearAirports.io

Developing a conclusive compilation of the oldest cities in the United States is not as simple as it initially appears. The criteria for inclusion are open to interpretation: should a city have been continuously inhabited or is it acceptable if it experienced periods of abandonment and subsequent resettlement? Does a name change invalidate a settlement's status, or is it regarded as a natural part of its historical evolution? Furthermore, does a certain population threshold need to be met in order for a place to be considered a city? Presented here is one rendition of a list, which could potentially vary significantly based on personal definitions. This article will delve into the histories of five of the oldest cities in the United States. Let's get to the point together!

So what are the longest-standing cities in the US?

1. Old Oraibi, Arizona and the Pueblos of New Mexico

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Old Oraibi in Arizona is considered to be the longest continuously inhabited settlement in the United States, dating back to around 1150 CE. However, due to its small size, it's more accurately described as a village rather than a city. Similarly, Acoma Sky City, the oldest of New Mexico's Pueblos, was also founded around the same time but is sparsely populated today. In contrast, Taos Pueblo is currently home to approximately 150 permanent residents. According to the National Park Service, the original Pueblo site, known as "Cornfield Taos," traces its roots back to 1325 CE and is located just east of the present-day settlement.

The neighboring town of Taos has its own extensive history. In 1540, the Spanish conquistadors, led by Hernando de Alvarado, arrived in search of the fabled seven cities of Cibola, believed to be a prosperous province. Instead of finding gold, they encountered adobe houses. Nevertheless, in 1615, Don Fernando de Taos established a settlement in the area. Conflict arose between the newcomers and the indigenous Tewa people, resulting in a series of uprisings, expulsions, and relocations until the Spaniards gained control in 1696.

2. St. Augustine, Florida

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St. Augustine holds the distinction of being the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the United States with a mix of European and African-American origins. Its origins can be traced back to 1565 when Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established the city. Despite the presence of French Huguenots in Jacksonville the year before, the Spanish were determined to claim Florida as their own. Eventually, Florida and St. Augustine fell into British hands under the Treaty of Paris in 1763, bringing misfortune to the Spanish.

Due to the temporary nature of the 16th-century buildings in St. Augustine, the oldest intact structure is the Castillo de San Marcos, a fortress constructed in the late 17th century using coquina, a type of limestone made up of seashells. The downtown area of St. Augustine still retains a distinctly Spanish street layout, featuring 36 colonial buildings that have been restored for the city's 400th anniversary. Today, visitors have the opportunity to explore the Colonial Quarter through a guided walking tour, where they can witness re-enactments of the past, including live musket firing, blacksmithing demonstrations, and other engaging activities.

3. Jamestown, Virginia

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Jamestown, Virginia was established in 1607 as the location of the first English settlement in North America. Situated strategically inland to deter potential Spanish attacks, the settlement's proximity to water on three sides allowed for easy docking and unloading of ships. A fort was swiftly constructed to safeguard the residents in case of clashes with the local Powhatan Indians. However, following a fire in 1699, the settlement was mostly abandoned, although the area continued to be used for farming. It was later transformed into a tourist attraction, with a private residence still found on the island.

Jamestown is not the only region in Virginia with a history dating back over 400 years. For instance, Bermuda Hundred (also known as Bermuda Cittie or City) was established in 1613 by Sir Thomas Dale, an English naval commander. Within three years, the population reached 119, and in 1688, a town was officially laid out. It was granted the status of one of Virginia's ports in 1691. By 1732, a ferry began operating across the James River, linking Bermuda Hundred to City Point. Eventually, City Point was incorporated into Hopewell in 1923.

4. Santa Fe, New Mexico

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In 1607, the Spanish were the first to establish the oldest state capital in the U.S., which later became Santa Fe. They further developed the settlement in 1609, naming it Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis. However, prior to their arrival, the area was inhabited by the Ogha Po'oge, meaning White Shell Water Place in the Tewa language, since 900 CE. By the time conquistador Don Pedro de Peralta arrived, the site had already been abandoned. Despite a brief period of control by the Pueblo Indians in the late 17th century, Don Diego de Vargas reclaimed Santa Fe for the Spanish in 1692. Eventually, in 1850, New Mexico became a U.S. territory.

Nowadays, the adobe structures in Santa Fe are a major attraction for tourists. The main plaza is dominated by the Palace of the Governors, which now serves as a history museum. A short distance away is the San Miguel Chapel, recognized as the oldest Catholic Church in the country. Across from it stands a museum and gift store claiming to be the oldest house in the city. Although the exact construction date is unknown, tree ring analysis indicates that some of its timbers date back to the period between 1740 and 1767. Historians have also found evidence of puddled adobe on one interior wall, a construction technique predating the later use of adobe bricks by the Spanish.

5. Albany, New York

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In 1609, Henry Hudson, an English explorer, embarked on a voyage from Amsterdam aboard the Halve Maen, commissioned by the Dutch East India Company with the objective of finding a route to Asia. During his expedition, he came across a river that would later be named after him. This discovery led to the Dutch establishing a territorial claim in the area. In 1614, their fur traders founded Fort Nassau on Westerlo Island, taking advantage of the favorable climate and the high demand for beaver fur. Recognizing the expertise of the Mohawk people in trapping, the Europeans sought alliances for business purposes.

Due to frequent flooding, Fort Nassau was replaced by Fort Orange around ten years later. The new fort was positioned slightly further north, eventually becoming a prominent feature in downtown Albany as it stands today. Over the next few decades, the settlement of Beverwijck, which was the first permanent settlement in New Netherland, experienced significant growth. In 1664, the Dutch surrendered New Netherland to the British, who then granted the territory to James, the Duke of York and Albany, King Charles II's brother. As a result, Beverwijck was subsequently renamed Albany. The city obtained its official city charter in 1686 and currently serves as the state capital of New York.

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