- Some cities in the US are so old they were founded by settlers before the Revolutionary War.
- The oldest US city founded by settlers is St. Augustine,Florida.
- In the 1600s, Newport, Rhode Island, and Charleston, South Carolina, were founded.
- Meanwhile, Mobile, Alabama; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Savannah, Georgia, were settled in the 1700s.
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Although every state has historic towns and rich histories, there are some cities in the US that date back further than the rest.
St. Augustine, for example, was founded by European settlers in the 1500s, while cities like Newport, Rhode Island and Charleston, South Carolina, were founded in the 1600s. In other words, there are cities in the US that have origins before the Revolutionary War even started.
These are 15 of the oldest cities in the US that you can visit today.
St. Augustine, Florida, was founded in 1565, making it the oldest city in the US.
Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, an explorer from Spain, landed on the east coast of Florida in 1565. Once there, he created a settlement and named it after the saint of brewers, St. Augustine. The city remained Spain’s capital in that region for 200 years before the British took control of it in the 1700s.
Over 450 years later, St. Augustine is a bustling city, known for its Spanish architecture, St. Augustine Beach, Crescent Beach, Anastasia State Park, and the Castillo de San Marcos.
The second oldest city in the US is Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was founded in 1607.
In the 1500s, the “Kingdom of New Mexico” was owned by the Spanish and its capital was San Juan Pueblo. But in 1609, conquistador Don Pedro de Peralta moved the capital 25 miles south and named the settlement Santa Fe.
Today, the city is home to the country’s oldest public building, the Palace of Governors. It’s also known for its thriving,local artist community.
New York City was first settled in 1624, making it one of the oldest cities in the country.
In 1624, the Dutch West India Company sent about 30 families to settle on what is now known as Governor’s Island. Back then, however, the settlement was named New Amsterdam. A couple of years later, New Amsterdam’s governor purchased the island of Manhattan from the Native Americans, and the population grew quickly.
Today, New York City is made up of five boroughs and is the most populated city in the US.
In 1630, the city of Boston, Massachusetts, was founded in New England.
In the early 1600s, the peninsula that would become known as Boston was controlled by Native Americans until John Smith named the area New England to attract European settlers. By 1630, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was established and later renamed Boston after a small town in England. A few years later, the Boston Latin School and Harvard University were created, making Boston an educational haven.
Today, Boston is still a college town and is also known for the Boston Common, the Public Gardens, and Fenway Park.
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, was settled in 1632 and continues to be a historical destination today.
Williamsburg, Virginia, was founded in 1632, and a few decades later, the College of William & Mary was built. But it wasn’t until decades later that the city became well-known. After Jamestown burned down in 1698, the capital of Virginia was moved to Williamsburg, which was named after King William III. Williamsburg quickly became an educational and political hub for the colonies. The city then became home to several firsts, including the first printing press and the first newspaper.
Today, the city of Colonial Williamsburg still welcomes students to the famous college. The city is also known as a tourist destination, as Williamsburg hosts reenactments of colonial times.
Meanwhile, Newport, Rhode Island, dates back to 1639.
In 1636, Anne Hutchinson left Massachusetts as a religious refugee with a group of followers and founded the town of Portsmouth, Rhode Island. When differences broke out within that group, some moved south and officially founded what is now known as Newport. Over the years, the city became popular for its seaport and harbour. Eventually, the city turned into a summer destination for the country’s wealthiest.
Today, Newport is still known as a destination for the wealthy, as yachts fill its ports and mansions are still in use. Most notably, The Breakers, a 19th-century estate, has become a popular tourist destination.
When Annapolis, Maryland, was settled in 1649, it was known as the “Athens of America.”
Puritans who sought religious freedom settled in the Chesapeake Bay in 1649 and named their settlement Providence. As the town grew, it was renamed Annapolis after Princess Anne, who became Queen in 1702. The city eventually became known as a political and cultural hub, earning its name the “Athens of America.”
Over 300 years later, Annapolis, Maryland, is famous for the US Naval Academy, the Maryland State House, and its seafood cuisine.
Settled in 1670, the famous southern city of Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the oldest in the country.
English colonists settled near the Ashley River in 1670 and named their town Charles Towne after King Charles II. Ten years later, the city was moved to where Charleston is today and became famous for its rice and indigo. The city is well known for its role in the Civil War when it became an early supporter of state’s rights and slavery.
Now Charleston is known for its historic charm, its Fort Sumter National Monument, and its plantations.
In 1681, Pennsylvania’s largest city, Philadelphia, was founded.
King Charles II of England gave William Penn a charter to colonise what became known as Pennsylvania in 1681. At the time, Penn was a Quaker, so he signed a peace treaty with the Native American chief in the area. Years later, that peace would be disrupted when slaves arrived in the city. Eventually, they passed the Germantown Petition Against Slavery in 1688, which was the first official ban on slavery in history. The city boomed economically and culturally, eventually becoming the City of Brotherly Love.
Today Pennsylvania is known for the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the “Rocky” statue.
One of the south’s oldest cities, Biloxi, Mississippi, was established in 1699.
In 1699, French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville landed in Biloxi Bay, according to the Biloxi Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. The area is now home to the city of Biloxi, which means “first people,” and Ocean Springs.
Over the next few decades, several different countries had control of the city, including Britain, Spain, and the Confederate States of America. Eventually, Biloxi became known as a getaway for the south’s wealthiest.
Biloxi is now famous for its casinos, as there are eight within the city and four nearby on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Mobile, Alabama, was established in 1702 by the French.
Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville settled in French Louisiana in 1702. By 1711, the settlement had moved to the present site of Mobile, Alabama, and it became the capital city of Lousiana. The city was named after the local Native American tribe known as Maubila. Years later, Mobile played big roles in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War as a trading port.
Mobile, Alabama, is now known for the University of Mobile, the University of South Alabama, the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, and the Mobile Museum of Art.
In 1718, San Antonio, Texas, was established in the southwest.
San Antonio was founded by the Spanish in 1718 and named after St. Anthony of Padua. When they built the Mission San Antonio de Valero – commonly known as the Alamo – the city was born.
Today San Antonio is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and tourists flock to the city every year to visit the famous Alamo.
New Orleans, Louisiana, was founded in 1718 on a curve of the Mississippi River.
In 1718, Frenchman Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville founded Nouvelle-Orléans 100 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River. In the 1700s, the Spanish owned the famous city, but transferred it to France before the US bought it in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Over the next few decades, the city grew so much that New Orleans was the largest city in the Confederacy during the Civil War. Eventually, the city transformed into a cultural hub, becoming the birthplace of jazz.
Despite the devastation from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans still has a huge musical scene, French influences, and a large tourist population.
America’s first planned city, Savannah, Georgia, was founded in 1733.
In 1733, General James Oglethorpe of England arrived in the Americas with 120 passengers on the Savannah River. He named the colony Georgia after King George II of England. After agreeing to peace with the local tribe, Oglethorpe decided to settle the first city on a bluff. He decided to plan out the city as a grid – the first to do so. In his plans, he designed wide streets that could accommodate public squares.
Today, 22 out of the 24 public squares that Oglethorpe planned back in the 1600s still exist, and they attract tourists to the charming southern city every year.
In 1776, San Francisco, California, was founded.
Juan Bautiza and other Spanish colonists founded the Presidio of San Francisco and mission at the Golden Gate bay, which ultimately created the settlement of San Francisco. In the 1800s, the city was found to have gold, so thousands of people moved west during the Gold Rush, increasing the population to 25,000. From there, the city boomed, eventually becoming a haven for counter-culture, the LGBTQ community, and the hippies.
Today, San Francisco has transformed into a hub for technology and business, and it’s known for being one of the most expensive places to live in the US.