- The US is brimming with landmarks that reflect its rich history.
- Arizona’s iconic Grand Canyon and Wyoming’s Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park are ideal for any nature buff.
- There are also quaint farmhouses and historic forts scattered across the country.
While many of the oldest structures across America are either closed to the public or private homes, we focused on those relics that can be accessed by visitors.
Keep scrolling to see attractions that aren’t just dedicated to history, they’re part of it.
ALABAMA: Fort Morgan in Gulf Shores
Construction on Fort Morgan began in 1819. It was meant to create a more permanent military presence on the Gulf Coast of Alabama after the Spanish left Mobile in April of 1813, and British naval attacks in 1814 and 1815. Fort Morgan replaced Fort Bowyer, a wood construction.
Tours of the fort are available and focus on its role in the Civil War.
ALASKA: Erskine House in Kodiak
Grigorii Shelikhov established the settlement of Kodiak – the first Russian settlement in Alaska – in 1784. Between 1805 and 1808, his company built around 50 buildings, one of which is the Erskine House. The building, which started as a warehouse or store, is now the oldest building in Alaska.
The Erkskine House now houses the Kodiak Historical Society and Baranov Museum.
ARIZONA: The Grand Canyon
There is much debate in the geological community about how old the Grand Canyon actually is. Some theories state that it’s close to 70 million years old, but the most widely accepted answer is around six million years.
At 277 miles long, the Grand Canyon is huge – and, according to National Geographic, extremely popular. In 2016, 5.9 million people visited the park, making it the second-most-visited national park in the US.
ARKANSAS: Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs
The first European to visit the Arkansas Hot Springs was Hernando de Soto in 1541 – Native Americans in the area had been going for much longer, but Spanish and French settlers claimed the area in the mid-1500s.
The springs were designated a federal reservation in 1832 by President Jackson, the first time land had been set aside by the federal government for recreational purposes (Yellowstone came in 1872).
The only way to experience the hot springs, which surround the town of Hot Springs, Arkansas, is by going to one of the bathhouses. The largest on Bathhouse Row is The Fordyce, which was built in 1915.
CALIFORNIA: Death Valley National Park
The oldest rocks in Death Valley are 1.7 billion years old – the average ones “only” date back 500 million years. So in addition to being one of the hottest, driest, and lowest places in the US, it’s also ancient.
Death Valley is located in southeastern California, around 100 miles west of Las Vegas. Dante’s View is a good starting point to see a breathtaking view of the Valley.
COLORADO: Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park
Cliff Palace, a cliff dwelling community constructed by Ancestral Puebloans between 600 and 1300 AD, is located within Mesa Verde National Park. It’s the largest cliff dwelling in North America, with 150 rooms and 23 kivas (round sunken rooms of ceremonial importance).
Cliff Palace is closed until May 2018, but back in action just in time for summer vacay.
CONNECTICUT: Henry Whitfield State Museum in Guilford
Puritan minister Henry Whitfield’s home was built in 1639, making it Connecticut’s oldest house, New England’s oldest stone house, and Connecticut’s first state museum, according to Culture and Tourism. Whitfield was the leader of a group of English Puritans who fled England to escape religious persecution.
DELAWARE: Historic New Castle
The town, also called Old New Castle, dates back to the 1600s – it was briefly the capital of Delaware (the first state). Many of the original buildings have been preserved, and according to New Castle’s website, it’s second only to Williamsburg, Virginia, in its authenticity and number of historic structures.
You can visit the New Castle Court House Museum, the first court and state capitol of Delaware.
WASHINGTON, DC: The Old Stone House
The Old Stone House was built in 1765 in what was originally the colony of Maryland, making it the oldest structure on its original foundation in DC. The reason for its preservation is actually due to case of mistaken identity.
George Washington and Pierre L’Enfant, a city planner, stayed in Suter’s Tavern (owned by John Suter) while they were establishing relationships with local merchants. Suter’s son, John Jr., owned a clock shop that eventually would become the Old Stone House. Over time, the two Johns were mixed up, and the Old Stone House was preserved as a location where Washington stayed.
FLORIDA: St. Augustine
St. Augustine is located on the Atlantic coast of northern Florida. It was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, making it the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the US.
There are multiple historical sites to visit within the city, such as the Castillo de San Marcos – a 17th-century fortress established by the Spanish Empire.
GEORGIA: The Pirate’s House in Savannah
The Pirate’s House has been an operating tavern and restaurant since 1753, but part of the structure that’s known as the Herb House dates back to 1734. The building is believed to be haunted by the ghosts of pirates that used to frequent the bar.
HAWAII: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is located on the Big Island, and has an area of 333,000 acres. In addition to a lot of hiking options, bike trails, and cultural programs, the park contains multiple volcanoes – including two live ones.
One of them, Kīlauea, is believed to be between 300,000 and 600,000 years old, and has been erupting since 1983. The other active volcano, Mauna Loa, is believed to be between 600,000 and 1 million years old, and is the world’s largest volcano.
IDAHO: The Mission of the Sacred Heart in Cataldo
The Mission of the Sacred Heart is the oldest building in Idaho, and was built sometime between 1850 and 1853 by Catholic missionaries and members of the Coeur d’ Alene tribe. The national park the building sits in is actually named for the structure – Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park.
Inside, the mission is currently housing an exhibit entitled Sacred Encounters: Father De Smet & the Indians of the Rocky Mountain West, which tells the story of Jesuit missionaries that came to the area and the effects that the missionaries and the Native American tribes had on each other, with artifacts from the time.
ILLINOIS: Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville
According to UNESCO, the Cahokia Mounds are remnants of the “largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico.” The ancient settlement was first established in 800 AD, and is said to have been larger than London during its peak in 1250, with a population of 10 to 20,000. One of the most popular sites, the Monks Mound, is the largest prehistoric earthwork in the Americas.
INDIANA: Indiana Territorial Capitol in Vincennes
IOWA: Louis Arriandeaux Log House in Dubuque
The Louis Arriandeaux log house, which belonged to the pioneer settler William Newman, is estimated to have been built from 1827 to 1833.
While the cabin was restored and moved from its original location at Second Street and Locust Street to Eagle Point Park, it now provides a fascinating window into the past, demonstrating how people lived on the frontier.
KANSAS: Fort Leavenworth
Fort Leavenworth, built in 1827, is the oldest active Army post west of the Mississippi River. It’s also the oldest permanent settlement in Kansas, and home to the Department of Defence’s only maximum security prison.
Even though it’s open to the public, there is still a high level of security.
KENTUCKY: Locust Grove in Louisville
Locust Grove is a 55-acre estate in Louisville, built by the Croghan family in 1790. The home was frequently visited by prominent American figures, like James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, and John James Audubon. Lucy Clark Croghan also once hosted her brother and his travelling companion: William Clark and Meriwether Lewis (explorers Lewis and Clark).
LOUISIANA: Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop in New Orleans.
Jean Lafitte’s is the oldest building in New Orleans, and the oldest structure used as a bar in the US. It was built in 1722, and originally functioned as a blacksmith shop, though many believe that Jean Lafitte (a privateer) and his brother Pierre (a blacksmith) used the shop as a front for illegal activity. However, no proof of this has ever been found. The shop was turned into a café and bar in the ’40s.
MAINE: Old York Gaol in York
The Old Gaol (Jail) was built in 1719, and is America’s oldest royal prison. The Gaol is just one part of an area known as Old York, one of the country’s earliest colonies, and now filled with various historical attractions, like Jeffrey’s Tavern (a colonial tavern dating back to 1750), and the Old Schoolhouse. Tours, which only take place in the spring and summer, depict what life was like three centuries ago.
MARYLAND: Fort Garrison in Pikesville
The stone structure was commissioned by the Royal Governor, Sir Francis Nicholson, in 1693 to protect trading routes in Maryland. The building actually had a fireproof roof to protect it from flaming arrows.
In the 1960s, community members in the area organised a “Save the Fort” campaign, and eventually the land was reclaimed by Baltimore County, and restored.
MASSACHUSETTS: Fairbanks House in Dedham
The Fairbanks House is the oldest known wooden structure standing in North America. It was built around 1637 by Jonathan Fairbanks for his wife and six kids to live in – and was home to eight generations of Fairbankses over 268 years.
The home has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places and is now a museum.
MICHIGAN: Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island
There are many historical buildings on Mackinac Island, including Fort Mackinac, whose Officers Stone Quarters were built in 1780, making them the oldest building in Michigan.
The Fort was built by the British Army, but was turned over to the US in 1796. It was essentially abandoned until the Stone Quarters were set aside to be part of a museum in 1914.
MINNESOTA: Fort Snelling in Saint Paul
Construction began on Fort Snelling in 1820, and it was completed by 1825. It was originally built to keep British fur traders from expanding into the northwestern US, but was in service until 1858, when Minnesota became an official state and the US government had built outposts further west.
It now features there tours, a shop, exhibits, and camps and youth programs.
MISSISSIPPI: LaPointe-Krebs House in Pascagoula
Not only is the LaPointe-Krebs house the oldest structure in Mississippi, it’s the oldest structure in the whole Mississippi Valley, having been built in 1757. This means it pre-dates the American Revolutionary War by over two decades.
The on-site museum is currently open, but the house itself is “undergoing the most comprehensive restoration in its history,”per its website.
MISSOURI: Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield in Republic
On August 10, 1861, approximately 5,400 Union Troops fought against 12,000 Confederates on the site of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. Wilson’s Creek is recognised as the first Civil War battle fought west of the Mississippi river. The site still has old relics from the war, including the Grand Army of the Republic flag of Captain Mack from the 1800s, and Civil War cannons.
Stevensville, which is often called “where Montana began,” is home to Fort Owen, which is thought to be the first permanent settlement in Montana. St. Mary’s Mission, pictured above, was founded by Jesuit priest Fr. Pierre De Smet in 1841, and remains open as a museum today.
NEBRASKA: Chimney Rock National Historic Site in Bayard
Chimney Rock, a 480-foot high geological rock formation in western Nebraska, stood as a landmark for pioneers heading west in the 19th century, and is said to be around 24 to 25 million years old. It is one of the most iconic landmarks in the entire state.
NEVADA: Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument in Las Vegas
Located about 30 minutes northwest of Sin City, Tule Springs itself is relatively new, but the fossils the National Monument has on display are anything but. Lions, camels, and mammoths from the Ice Age are among some of the preserved fossils you’ll be able to view here for free.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves in North Woodstock
After the last Ice Age ended, the mile-long glaciers covering the White Mountains melted, carving deep caves into the granite and forming what is now known as the Lost River Gorge. While the first documented exploration of Lost River was in 1852, you can view the natural wonder of the Lost River today as it winds through mysterious boulders and caves and appears again as breathtaking waterfalls.
NEW JERSEY: Nothnagle Log House in Gibbstown
Records indicate that the Nothnagle Log House, a historic cabin on Swedesboro-Paulsboro Road in Gibbstown, New Jersey, is one of the oldest in the United States. It was built between 1638 and 1643 by Finnish settlers. Harry and Doris Rink, who reside in the adjoining structure, conduct tours for the cabin by appointment.
NEW MEXICO: Chaco Culture National Historical Park
Sure, you can visit the Barrio De Analco Historic District in New Mexico if you want to check out the state’s oldest house and oldest mission church, but venture over to Chaco Culture National Historical Park to lay eyes on ruins left behind by the Ancient Pueblo People, who occupied the area between AD 850 and 1150.
NEW YORK: Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum in Brooklyn
Built in 1652, the original portion of the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum (then called the Wyckoff house) is both a National Historic Landmark and the oldest-known building in New York City – then New Amsterdam in the Dutch-controlled colony of New Netherland.
NORTH CAROLINA: The Blowing Rock
Blowing Rock, an immense cliff that towers 4,000 feet above sea level overhanging Johns River Gorge, is North Carolina’s oldest travel attraction, having first attracted visitors in 1933. The cliff itself is believed to be 250 million years old.
Legend has it that a forlorn Native American, unable to choose between his beloved maiden and his responsibilities to protect his tribe, lept from the rock into the forest. The woebegone maiden prayed daily until her paramour was “blown” back into her arms.
NORTH DAKOTA: Fort Totten State Historic Site in Ft. Totten
Fort Totten, which became a North Dakota State Historic Site in 1960 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, preserves a military post that was built in 1867. The post was used as a military reservation until 1890, when it became a boarding school for Native American children. Now, the brick buildings on the lot are used to house museum exhibits.
OHIO: Old Stone Fort in West Lafayette
Presumed by many to be the oldest building in Ohio – and possibly the Midwest – the Old Stone Fort in Coshocton County, Ohio, is shrouded in mystery. Nobody knows the exact date the fort was built, but popular opinion suggests that French explorer, D’iberville, built it between 1679 and 1689.
OKLAHOMA: Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum in Tahlequah
The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum was built in 1844 by James S. Pierce. It is now the oldest government building still standing in Oklahoma.
OREGON: National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
The Oregon Trail is a historic, 2,000 mile trail laid down by traders and fur trappers from about 1811 to 1840. Hundreds of thousands of American pioneers used it to emigrate west. Visitors can look at actual ruts carved by pioneer wagons, remnants of the historic Flagstaff Gold Mine, and more on the 500-acre site of the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.
PENNSYLVANIA: Wynnestay in Philadelphia
Just a handful of years after Philadelphia was founded, Wynnstay, the first estate in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, was built by Welsh Quaker Thomas Wynne’s family in 1689. It is considered to be the oldest existing stone-built private residence in Philadelphia.
If you want to tour the house, the home is available for viewing by appointment only.
RHODE ISLAND: First Baptist Church in America in Providence
Also known as First Baptist Meetinghouse, the First Baptist Church in America was founded by Roger Williams in 1636, back when Rhode Island was still called “Providence Plantation.” The church marked the first place that the separation of church and state and religious liberty were recognised.
SOUTH CAROLINA: The Middleton Oak tree (Middleton Place) in Dorchester County
Middleton Place is a 65-acre plantation in Dorchester County built in phases during the 18th and 19th centuries, though most believe construction began in the late 1730s. The plantation is home to the Middleton Oak, a majestic oak tree that is allegedly more than 500 years old.
SOUTH DAKOTA: Broken Boot Gold Mine in Deadwood
Established in 1878, one of America’s last great gold rushes occurred at Deadwood’s Broken Boot Gold Mine.
TENNESSEE: Fort Loudoun State Historic Park in Nashville
Built in 1756, Fort Loudoun State Historic Park is one of the earliest British colonial-era fortifications in what is now Monroe County, Tennessee. The fort’s existence was short-lived – the Cherokee captured it and its garrison in 1760, though it was rebuilt during the Grat Depression.
TEXAS: San Antonio Missions National Historic Park
Mission Concepción stands as the oldest unrestored stone church in America. Said to have been established in 1716, it was dedicated in 1755, and still looks very similar to how it did two centuries ago.
UTAH: The Great Salt Lake in Salt Lake City
The Great Salt Lake (of Salt Lake City fame) is the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River at 75 miles long and 35 miles wide. Great Salt Lake originated from Lake Bonneville, a lake dating back to the Ice Age 30,000 years ago.
Great Salt Lake is too salty for most types of fish or other wildlife, which makes it perfect for swimming, kayaking, and other aquatic activities. But the main draw of the lake is the sunset view, which John Muir, aka the Father of the National Parks, called “one of the great views on the American Continent.”
VERMONT: Marble quarry in Dorset
The marble quarry in Dorset, Vermont, was in operation from 1785 to about 1874, making it the oldest quarry in the United States.
VIRGINIA: Historic Jamestowne
Jamestown was the site of the very first permanent English settlement in North America. First established in 1607, Historic Jamestowne is now a cultural heritage site. Visitors can visit the site where Pocahontas married Captain John Rolfe in 1614, and witness archaeological excavations that are still underway in the city.
WASHINGTON: Tsagaglalal (She Who Watches) in Lyle
One of the most well-known pictographs in America resides in the Columbia Hills State Park. It’s called the Tsagaglalal, which translates to “She Who Watches.” While it’s hard to know how old it is, similar artifacts were found at cremation and burial sites dating from AD 1700 to AD 1840.
Legend has it that a female chief, worried about what would hapen to her tribe when she was gone, was tricked by a coyote who turned her into a rock to watch over her people forever.
WEST VIRGINIA: Entler Hotel in Shepherdstown
The Entler Hotel is one of West Virginia’s most prominent historic icons, with origins dating all the way back to 1786. While the house – also known as Rumsey Hall – burnt down in 1912, its foundations still remain. Today, the Historic Shepherdstown Museum is inside of the hotel.
WISCONSIN: The Wakely Tavern at Point Basse
Robert and Mary Wakeley built the Wakeley tavern and inn in 1842 at Point Basse, near Nekoosa, Wisconsin. Wakeley was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Today, it’s a part of Historic Point Basse, a living history museum.
WYOMING: Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park spans an area of 3,468.4 square miles, and was established by the US Congress on March 1, 1872, making it the oldest national park in the US. Make sure to check out Old Faithful, a geyser that erupts around 20 times a day and was named during the Washburn Expedition of 1870.
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