Top 10 oldest cities in the US
Top 10 oldest cities in the US

What are the oldest cities in America?

Although every state has historic towns and rich histories, there are some cities in the US that date back further than the rest.

The United States was "born" on July 4, 1776, but the oldest cities in the U.S. were established long before the nation was. All were founded by European explorers—Spanish, French, and English—although most occupied lands had been settled long before by Indigenous peoples. Let’s take a look at the list of the top 10 oldest cities in the United States.

List of top 10 oldest cities in the US

10. Weymouth, Massachusetts (1622)

9. Plymouth, Massachusetts (1620)

8. Jersey City, New Jersey (1617)

7. Albany, New York (1614)

6. Newport News, Virginia (1613)

5. Kecoughtan, Virginia (1610)

4. Hampton, Virginia (1610)

3. Santa Fe, New Mexico (1607)

2. Jamestown, Virginia (1607)

1. St. Augustine, Florida (1565)

Detailed info for the top 10 oldest cities in the US

10. Weymouth, Massachusetts (1622)

Photo: Metro
Photo: Metro

The Town of Weymouth occupies 21.6 square miles about 12 miles south of Boston on the South Shore. It is the second oldest settlement in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, dating from 1622. Thomas Weston, a London merchant, had done helped finance the Pilgrims and pay for the Mayflower, because he believed that there was the potential for a lucrative business based on trade with the colonies. Since the Pilgrims were motivated more by religious freedom than investment opportunities, Weston wanted to establish a separate colony that would serve as a trading post from which lumber, furs, salted fish could be shipped to England. Accordingly, he sent 60 men to what is now North Weymouth and named it "Wessaguscus" or "Wessagusset".

Incorporated in 1635, it was named for Weymouth, England, and depended on farming and fishing (until water pollution ended the region’s herring runs). Local bog iron, discovered in 1771, formed the basis of an early iron industry. Shoe manufacturing was begun in 1853. Much of Weymouth is now residential, with thousands of workers commuting daily to Boston or elsewhere. Health care and light manufacturing (electronic components) are important sources of local employment.

9. Plymouth, Massachusetts (1620)

Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia

Plymouth is a town in Plymouth County, Massachusetts. The town holds a place of great prominence in American history, folklore, and culture, and is known as "America's Hometown." Plymouth was the site of the colony founded in 1620 by the Mayflower Pilgrims, where New England was first established. It is the oldest municipality in New England and one of the oldest in the United States.

Located on the southwestern shores of Massachusetts Bay, present-day Plymouth had been occupied by Indigenous peoples for centuries. Were it not for the assistance of Squanto and others from the Wampanoag tribe during the winter of 1620-21, the Pilgrims may not have survived.

8. Jersey City, New Jersey (1617)

Photo: New York Times
Photo: New York Times

Jersey City, city, seat (1840) of Hudson county, northeastern New Jersey, U.S. It is situated on a peninsula between the Hudson and Hackensack rivers, opposite Manhattan Island, New York City, with which it is connected by the Holland Tunnel and the Port Authority Trans-Hudson rapid transit system. Its site, originally inhabited by the Delaware Indians, was first visited by Henry Hudson in 1609.

Today, Jersey City still reflects the flavors and influences of the international populations that call the city home.

An urban sophistication exists in the downtown area, from the waterfront landmark Colgate Clock through the Powerhouse Arts District, home to some of the city’s many talented artists.

To sample just a few of the multicultural influences in Jersey City, one must start with the vast array of food options. From Korean, Indian, Filipino and Cuban, bring your appetite! Complete information on restaurants, accommodations and attractions can be found at Destination Jersey City.

7. Albany, New York (1614)

Chuck Miller / Getty Images
Chuck Miller / Getty Images

Albany is the capital of the U.S. state of New York and the seat and largest city of Albany County. Albany is located on the west bank of the Hudson River approximately 10 miles (16 km) south of its confluence with the Mohawk River and approximately 135 miles (220 km) north of New York City.

Over the past four centuries, Albany has grown from a small Dutch settlement into New York State's Capital City in the heart of burgeoning Tech Valley.

Discover downtown Albany's booming craft beverage industry, must-see attractions and vibrant culture. Revel in the region's rich history with world-class museums, historic homes and fascinating architecture. Explore beyond the city limits for scenic views and thrilling outdoor adventures in the Helderberg Hilltowns. Albany County is a destination that is beyond conventional.

6. Newport News, Virginia (1613)

Photo: Wikipedia
Photo: Wikipedia

Newport News is an independent city in the U.S. state of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 180,719. In 2019, the population was estimated to be 179,225, making it the fifth-most populous city in Virginia.

Newport News is included in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. It is at the southeastern end of the Virginia Peninsula, on the northern shore of the James River extending southeast from Skiffe's Creek along many miles of waterfront to the river's mouth at Newport News Point on the harbor of Hampton Roads. The area now known as Newport News was once a part of Warwick County. Warwick County was one of the eight original shires of Virginia, formed by the House of Burgesses in the British Colony of Virginia by order of King Charles I in 1634.

Today, Newport News Shipbuilding remains one of the largest industrial employers in the state, producing aircraft carriers and submarines for the military.

5. Kecoughtan, Virginia (1610)

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Kecoughtan was the name of the settlement now known as Hampton, Virginia, in the seventeenth century. In the early twentieth century, it was also the name of a town developed nearby which was annexed into the City of Newport News in 1927.

Kecoughtan in Virginia was originally named Kikotan (also spelled Kiccowtan, Kikowtan etc.), the name of the Algonquian Native Americans living there when colonists led by Captain John Smith arrived in the Hampton Roads area in 1607.

Kecoughtan became part of Elizabeth River Shire in 1634, and Elizabeth City County in 1637. In the 1690s, Kecoughtan became part of the newly incorporated Town of Hampton, which later became an independent city. Elizabeth City County and its only incorporated town, Phoebus, both agreed to a consolidation with Hampton in 1952, forming the current City of Hampton.

Through Fort Algernon and the Kecoughtan settlement, Hampton can claim to be the oldest continually occupied English-speaking settlement in the United States, by virtue of Jamestown (which usually claims this distinction) having been abandoned for two days in June 1610. And, later in 1698, when the capital of the Virginia colony and the parish seat moved to Williamsburg, the buildings at Jamestown, including the church, were abandoned.

4. Hampton, Virginia (1610)

Photo: Linkedin
Photo: Linkedin

Hampton is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 137,438; in 2019, it was estimated to be 134,510. Hampton is included in the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Statistical Area (officially known as the Virginia Beach–Norfolk–Newport News, VA–NC MSA) which is the 37th largest in the United States, with a total population of 1,729,114. This area, known as "America's First Region", also includes the independent cities of Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, as well as other smaller cities, counties, and towns of Hampton Roads.

Partially bordered by the Hampton Roads harbor and Chesapeake Bay, Hampton is located in the center of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. Hampton is the site of America's first continuous English-speaking settlement and is home to a variety of historical, cultural and recreational activities and attractions. Such visitor attractions include the Virginia Air & Space Center and Riverside IMAX Theater, Hampton History Museum, harbor tours and cruises, Hampton University Museum, Fort Monroe, award-winning Hampton Coliseum, The American Theatre, among others. The Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe National Monument chronicles the imprisonment of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the Fort's role during the Civil War.

3. Santa Fe, New Mexico (1607)

Photo: Wikipedia
Photo: Wikipedia

Santa Fe holds the distinction of being the oldest state capital in the U.S. as well as New Mexico's oldest city. Long before Spanish colonists arrived in 1607, the area had been occupied by Indigenous peoples. One Pueblo village, founded around 900 A.D., was located in what is today downtown Santa Fe. Indigenous groups expelled the Spanish from the region from 1680 to 1692, but the rebellion was eventually put down.

In Santa Fe, colorful open-air marketplaces, ancient buildings (the Palace of the Governors, for example, is the nation’s oldest continuously occupied public building), art galleries and museums sit side-by-side with sleek restaurants, exciting nightclubs and modern hotels. The plaza in downtown Santa Fe is filled with modern stores of all kinds situated alongside the Native American art market, which takes place underneath the portal at the Governor’s Palace.

Outside the city, highlights include Bandelier National Monument, which protects more than 13,000 hectares of canyon and mesa with petroglyphs, dwellings and masonry of indigenous cultures dating back more than 11,000 years. Or, travel the High Road to Taos, a 170-kilometer trip through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains dotted with Spanish Colonial and Pueblo Indian villages where you can tour historic buildings and shop for authentic crafts.

2. Jamestown, Virginia (1607)

Photo: The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

The city of Jamestown is the second-oldest city in the U.S. and the site of the first permanent English colony in North America. It was founded on April 26, 1607, and briefly called James Fort after the English king. The settlement foundered in its first years and was briefly abandoned in 1610. By 1624, when Virginia became a British royal colony, Jamestown had become a small town, and it served as the colonial capital until 1698.

By the end of the Civil War in 1865, most of the original settlement (called Old Jamestowne) had fallen into ruin. Preservation efforts began at the turn of the 1900s while the land was in private hands. In 1936, it was designated a national park and renamed Colonial National Park. In 2007, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain was a guest for the 400th-anniversary celebration of Jamestown's founding.

1. St. Augustine, Florida (1565)

Photo: Beacon Lake
Photo: Beacon Lake

St. Augustine, known as The Ancient City, is located between Northeast and East Central Florida and is convenient to Jacksonville, Orlando, and Daytona airports. North Florida boasts a year-round mild climate perfect for strolling St. Augustine’s delightful historic district, with its cobblestone streets, quaint cafes, bars, unique shops, and bed and breakfast inns. Experience the beauty of an early morning that slowly comes alive with locals and tourists setting out on foot to explore significant landmarks including the Castillo de San Marcos, Lightner Museum, Flagler College, and Fort Matanzas.

St. Augustine was founded on Sept. 8, 1565, 11 days after the Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés came ashore on the feast day of St. Augustine. For more than 200 years, it was the capital of Spanish Florida. From 1763 to 1783, control of the region fell into British hands. During that period, St. Augustine was the capital of British East Florida. Control reverted to the Spanish in 1783 until 1822, when it was ceded by treaty to the United States.

St. Augustine remained the territorial capital until 1824 when it was moved to Tallahassee. In the 1880s, developer Henry Flagler began buying up local rail lines and building hotels, ushering in what would become Florida's winter tourist trade, still an important part of the city and state economy.

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