Technically, St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest city in the United States. However, much of the United States was inhabited by native Americans before European arrival. European settlers founded St. Augustine, in northeastern Florida, in 1565, which makes the city 450 years old. This is older than any other city in the country.
1. St. Augustine, Florida - 1565
St. Augustine was the capital of Spanish Florida until the mid-1700s when British forces took control of the area per the Treaty of Paris. Twenty years later, the second Treaty of Paris gave control of St. Augustine and Florida back to Spanish colonial powers. In 1819, this city and its surrounding territory were ceded to the US.
During the 1880s, St. Augustine became a popular winter vacation spot with the wealthy class from the northern part of the country. It remained popular with the elite until the beginning of the 20th century. This city went on to play an important role in the civil rights movement of the US during the 1960’s. In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a peaceful protest here at the Monson Motor Lodge in order to fight segregation in the state.
2. Santa Fe, New Mexico - 1607
Originally founded in 1607, Santa Fe, New Mexico is not only one of the oldest cities in the United States, but also the oldest state capital in the country. Aside from this designation, the city is also the capital city in the US with the highest elevation. Native Americans are thought to have occupied the land that is now Santa Fe since at least 900 CE. Don Pedro de Peralta, a governor of New Mexico in the time of New Spain, founded La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Assis in 1610.
3. Newport News, Virginia - 1621
After the failed English colony at Roanoke, settlers tried to establish colonies in other areas of Virginia. Some of these colonies included the famous Jamestown, as well as Kecoughtan. These areas exist in what is today known as Newport News, the fourth largest city in Virginia.
4. Albany, New York - 1614
Albany is the capital city of New York State. It is one of the oldest cities in the United States to have survived from its time of establishment in the early 1600s. Albany is the second oldest state capital in the US after Santa Fe.
5. Jersey City, New Jersey - 1617
Located across from the city of New York, Jersey City is the second largest city in the state of New Jersey. Before it was known as Jersey City, the land that the city occupies was home to Delaware Native Americans. Dutch settlers who visited the city in the 1600s referred to it as “Paulus Hook”. The city held historical significance throughout the time of the American Revolution as well as the industrial revolution.
6. Plymouth, Massachusetts - 1620
Famous for being the site of the Mayflower ship, Plymouth, Massachusetts, was founded in 1620, making it one of the oldest cities in America. It was named for a town of the same name in England. An important center of industry throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, today the main source of income for this famous town is tourism.
7. Dover, New Hampshire - 1623
Dover, New Hampshire is one of the oldest cities in New England as well as one of the oldest cities in the United States. The town was first developed by Puritans from England in the 1600s. Dover was known as the “Garrison City” due to the type of settlements built by early settlers.
8. Gloucester, Massachusetts - 1623
Aside from being one of the country’s oldest settlements, Gloucester is also the oldest seaport in the US. The area that would become Gloucester was first visited by Europeans when Samuel de Champlain explored the area in the early 1600s. Gloucester is also known for hosting the country’s oldest art colony, called Rocky Neck.
9. Quincy, Massachusetts - 1625
Located just south of Boston, Quincy is one of the oldest settlements in the USA. English settlers founded the community in the 1620s. Prior to this, the area where Quincy is today was inhabited by indigenous peoples.
10. Salem, Massachusetts - 1626
Another Massachusetts city on this list, Salem is perhaps most well-known for being the site of the famous witch trials which occurred in the late 1600s. Before the witch hunts, Salem was site of an indigenous village and trading center. In 1626, it was founded by a group of European fishermen.
About the Author
Amber is a freelance writer, English as a foreign language teacher, and Spanish-English translator. She lives with her husband and 3 cats.
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