At UnitedStatesNow, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
The oldest American cities are all on the Atlantic Coast. European settlers first arrived on the East Coast, establishing towns as early as the beginning of the 16th century. Not only are the oldest cities all in the East Coast, but some of the most important events in American history took place there. The first visitors to the land that is now North America were more than likely the Vikings, around the year 1000 CE. So why don't the oldest American cities show any Viking influence? Historians believe the Vikings visited just to explore, and they never had the intention of settling down on the new land.
The Spanish were the first explorers who came to stay, closely followed by other Europeans. Their presence is well-seen in some of the oldest American cities of the East coast, including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, all of which are almost four hundred years old.
The oldest continuously inhabited settlement is St. Augustine, in Florida. Founded on 28 August 1565, it is the oldest American city still in existence. Close behind is Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was established in 1598, but wasn't officially recognized until 1610.
Some of the other oldest American cities include Jamestown, founded in 1607, and Plymouth, founded in 1620. Situated far away from each other, in modern Virginia and Massachusetts, they became the symbol of what the new land had to offer. Jamestown was the first colony to house permanent residents in the northeast, after 18 early attempts resulted in disaster. Plymouth Rock was the disembarkation point of the pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower.
It took the Europeans an additional hundred years to establish settlements on the West Coast. The first explores reach the coast in 1513, but the oldest American cities on the west coast are barely 300 hundred years old. Baja California was the first area to get permanent residents. On 25 October 25 1697, "Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó" was established. Loreto, however, does not hold the title to one of the oldest American cities because the mission was closed in 1829.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the oldest city in the United States?
The oldest city in the United States is St. Augustine, Florida, founded by Spanish explorers in 1565. This city predates the English colony at Jamestown, Virginia (1607), and the Pilgrims' Plymouth, Massachusetts (1620), making it the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement within the continental United States.
Which cities are considered the oldest in the U.S. after St. Augustine?
Following St. Augustine, the next oldest cities in the U.S. include Santa Fe, New Mexico, established in 1607, and Jamestown, Virginia, also founded in 1607. Santa Fe is notable for being the oldest state capital in the United States. These cities were some of the first enduring European settlements that have survived to the present day.
How has the history of these old cities influenced American culture?
The history of America's oldest cities has deeply influenced American culture by preserving a rich heritage that includes architecture, traditions, and historical sites. For instance, St. Augustine's Spanish colonial buildings and Santa Fe's adobe structures reflect the diverse cultural influences that have shaped the nation. These cities are living museums, offering insights into the early interactions between European settlers and indigenous peoples, and the evolution of American society.
Are there any common misconceptions about the oldest American cities?
A common misconception is that the oldest American cities are on the East Coast, specifically in the New England area. While many historic cities are indeed located there, the oldest, St. Augustine, is in the Southeast, and Santa Fe is in the Southwest. This reflects the broader scope of early exploration and settlement by various European powers, not just the English.
What role do the oldest American cities play in tourism today?
Today, the oldest American cities are significant tourist destinations, attracting millions of visitors annually who are eager to explore their historic districts, landmarks, and museums. They offer a unique glimpse into the nation's past, with guided tours, reenactments, and educational programs that bring history to life. Tourism in these cities is a vital part of their economies, celebrating their heritage and preserving it for future generations.