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Top 8 Oldest US Settlements You Can Still Visit

Discover our nation’s past in these oldest US settlements!

Adventure In America is going on a journey through time as we explore the oldest US settlements that still stand as testaments to our country’s rich history. These remarkable towns hold tales of the earliest settlers who laid the foundation for the country we know today.

Tag along as we uncover these esteemed communities’ historic districts and cobblestone streets, each steeped in unique lore and charm.

As we venture into the heart of these oldest US settlements, prepare to be transported back in time, where colonial architecture tells us stories of bygone eras, and the echoes of pioneering spirits still linger in the air.

From the bustling streets of St. Augustine, Florida, to the quaint charm of Santa Fe, New Mexico, these towns offer a glimpse into America’s storied past.

So, pack your bags and join us on this unforgettable journey through history as we uncover the enduring legacies of the 8 oldest US settlements waiting to be explored.

Oldest US Settlement
Photo by Richard Susanto at Shutterstock

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe means Holy Faith. It’s considered one of the biggest art destinations in the world and the envy of towns and cities worldwide. So much so that thousands come to visit this area each year.

Before Spanish colonists arrived in 1607, this land belonged to the Indigenous people. From 1680 to 1692, they managed to stave off Spanish colonists but ultimately conceded after a shortage of their resources.

This oldest US settlement also holds the oldest government seat in the US. Known as the Palace of the Governors, it was constructed around 1610 by Spanish colonists.

It’s worth noting that the elevation is 7,000 feet above sea level, which makes it the third highest in our country and almost 2,000 feet higher than the elevation of Colorado, for which it’s infamous.

Childersburg, Alabama

Childersburg defines itself as “The Oldest Continually Occupied City in America,” and a big sign declaring its historic legacy suspends prominently off a railroad bridge on the path into town.

Childersburg dates back to 1540 when Spaniard Hernando de Soto came across Coosa, a town then inhabited by the Native American Coosa Nation.

But this oldest US settlement is likely to be much older than one might think, with varied indigenous groups having lived in the region for millennia.

Archives indicate that a considerable population prospered here for centuries, and the Abihka people made up the biggest population in the area in the 1700s.

Nevertheless, there’s only a small Native American population living in the city today, having been settled by various traders, explorers, and pioneers over the years.

Jersey City, New Jersey

With a population count of almost 300,00 people, it doesn’t surprise us that Jersey City is the second-largest city after Newark. It was occupied by the Lenape people, also known as Delaware Indians, at first.

The land was uncovered again by an English explorer whose name was Henry Hudson and was purchased by the Dutch West India Company in 1621.

Today, Jersey City and New York are connected via the Hudson River and share manufacturing, transit, and other production services effortlessly with each other, making them critical players in the well-being of millions of individuals beyond just those in Jersey.

Fun Fact: The Statue of Liberty is technically standing proud in this oldest US settlement despite New York having legal jurisdiction over it.

We can just add that to the long list of accomplishments New Jersey natives have to be proud of, besides the invention of the graphite pencil, of course.

Kecoughtan, Virginia

The Algonquian Native Americans called Kecoughtan home way before colonists led by Captain John Smith came in 1607. Before Smith, the land was named Kikotan. Unlike other encounters between colonists and natives, the relationship was friendly for a while.

But sadly, all good things must come to an end. In the inevitable battle for control of the land, the Indigenous residents were forced out of their homes and eliminated by the colonists in 1610. And out of the battlefield, this oldest US settlement was born.

In 1690, Kecoughtan combined with the much larger neighboring town of Hampton. And in the 1950s, Hampton was joined by two more towns. These were Phoebus and Elizabeth City County, forming the city of Hampton.

Oldest US Settlement
Photo by Sean Pavone at Shutterstock

St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine is one of the oldest US settlements in the United States of America. And if you grew up in the Sunshine State, there’s a good chance you’ve been on a school field trip to this beautiful location. If not, we hope you decide to visit someday!

It’s never too late to discover and learn new things about this beautiful place beyond just the little knick-knacks spread throughout the strip of gift shops. Established on September 8th, St. Augustine was the capital of Florida for more than 200 years.

The British, ruthless in their pursuit of control, held power over St. Augustine from 1763 to 1783. During this period, it became the capital of British East Florida until control shifted back in favor of the Spanish.

By 1822, the town was officially designated as part of the United States. St. Augustine was founded by Pedro Menendez de Aviles.

He was a triumphant admiral in the military who wasn’t just known for uncovering the most important location in the region for almost three centuries but for forming the Spanish treasure fleet.

Albany, New York

This oldest US settlement was anointed after the Duke of Albany when the English seized the land in 1664. A pack of Dutch traders helped build the land called Fort Nassau at its discovery.

In modern times, Albany is known for its wealthy demographic, state-of-the-art architecture, competitive ideals for higher education, and commerce.

Nowadays, it’s also an economic powerhouse for the state of New York, following the footsteps of their track record, which dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries, when they were at the epicenter of transportation and trading goods.

In 1797, this oldest US settlement became the capital of New York State. Always at the forefront of human creativity, the city is responsible for a few minor inventions, including the electric motor and the telegraph.

Oraibi, Arizona

While some people believe this oldest US settlement was founded in 1150, strong evidence indicates that it dates back to before 1100.

Located in Navajo Country, Oraibi is the US’ oldest continuously inhabited town. Established by the Hopi tribe, who still reside there today, its population is believed to have grown significantly in the 13th century, and it soon became the most significant of the Hopi tribe’s territories.

Unquestionably, by the end of the 19th century, roughly half of the Hopi population lived in Oraibi.

You can still visit the town today, but its private community continues to live by a traditional Hopi way of life, making photography forbidden. Oraibi was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Oldest US Settlement
Photo by Kathy Clark at Shutterstock

Jamestown, Virginia

In honor of the English king, Jamestown, previously known as James Fort , stands as the first English colony in North America that has remained a permanent fixture throughout time.

After its discovery in April 1607, the town struggled in its early years and was temporarily deserted in 1610. Virginia became a British royal colony a couple of years later, and Jamestown was the colonial capital up until 1698.

After the Civil War in 1865, much of Jamestown was destroyed to a shell of what it was. Left in ruins, many took on the burden of preserving what remained at the beginning of the 1900s.

In 1936, this oldest US settlement became a national park under its new name: Colonial National Park. Unfortunately, the early history of Jamestown is a gruesome one.

Ranging from testy encounters with the natives, cannibalism, water contaminated with fecal matter, mail-order brides required to repopulate the colony consisting of exclusive men, and a wipeout of over a third of the colony.

It’s a blessing that they survived until the Civil War. But despite the tribulations, Jamestown became the birthplace of American democracy.

Have you ever been to any of these oldest US settlements? If not, pack your bags, don’t forget your comfy walking shoes, and begin your next adventure!

Meanwhile Adventure In America has many more fantastic article for you to read. For instance, check out: 8 Bucket List Destinations You’ll Fall in Love With

6 Responses

  1. there are so many historic and beautiful towns in the US that we have not visited while choosing to travel to Europe & Asia. Thanks so much for pointing these out to us.

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