The Thirteen Colonies might have declared their independence in 1776, but cities and settlements existed in the US long before it actually became a country. What are the oldest cities in the United States? We’ve got them listed below.
Keep in mind, many early settlements are now historical sites or have been gathered up to form the cities of our modern day. Where applicable, we have made note of the modern-day names. With that in mind, here are the ten oldest cities in the United States.
What Are the Oldest Cities In the United States?
10. Quincy, Massachusetts – 1625
This Massachusetts city was first established in 1625 just southeast of what is now Boston. After going through a few name changes, the city finally settled on its current one in 1792. Quincy now serves as a place of historical significance and boasts a population of 95,000 people.
9. New York, New York – 1624
The biggest city in the country has not always been around, but it has been in existence since 1624. After Dutch settlers picked the perfect spot along the Hudson River for their New Amsterdam, they grew the settlement into a prosperous community. The city now contains an incredibly large population of about 8.6 million people.
8. Gloucester, Massachusetts – 1623
Taking its name from Gloucester, England, this maritime town was incorporated about twenty years after it was first settled by English colonists in 1623. Today, Gloucester’s population has grown to 30,000 people. Fishing is vitally important in Gloucester’s history: the town’s Fisherman’s Memorial was erected to remember the thousands who have been lost at sea over the years.
7. Dover, New Hampshire – 1623
Now with a population of just over 31,000 people, Dover was previously called Bristol by the British settlers who first arrived in 1623. Dover’s early success with its shipbuilding industry led to an increased variety of manufacturing endeavors that has grown over the centuries to include textile mills and electrical machinery, among other developments.
6. Plymouth, Massachusetts – 1620
Yet another Massachusetts city, Plymouth can trace its roots back to 1620. The site of the infamous Plymouth Rock served as the first establishment for Pilgrims making the journey from England. They settled the land and, over the course of the next 400 years, grew it into the current city of about 60,000 people.
5. Jersey City, New Jersey – 1618
Until Dutch settlers claimed this peninsula territory as Paulus Hook in 1618, Delaware Native Americans called it home. The settlement changed hands between the Dutch and the British a few times before 1674, when Britain gained it back in the aftermath of the Dutch War. Jersey City, as it was named in 1820, now boasts a population of more than 270,000 people.
4. Albany, New York – 1614
Originally the site of a small trading post for the Dutch West India Company, Albany has a history of settlements originating from 1614. It was known as Fort Orange in honor of the Dutch royal family and became Albany when Britain took control of the settlement in 1654. The state capital of New York since 1797, Albany has a population of about 98,000 people.
Further reading: Why Is Albany the Capital of New York?
3. Jamestown, Virginia – 1607
In 1607, the first English permanent settlement was founded in the United States. Jamestown was claimed by members of the Virginia Company in 1607 due to its ideal set of conditions for hunting, resource collection, and defense. Today, both the historic site on Jamestown Island and the Jamestown Settlement replica are national historical parks. These sites are located near modern-day Newport News, Virginia, a large city with a population of 179,000 people.
2. Santa Fe, New Mexico – 1607
The only landlocked city on this list, Santa Fe was founded between 1607 and 1610. Spanish colonists were the first ones to take control of the area from the Native Americans. Control then transferred to Mexico before Santa Fe finally became the property of the United States after the Mexican American War in 1846. The city currently contains a population of 84,000 people.
Further reading: Why Is Santa Fe the Capital of New Mexico?
1. St. Augustine, Florida – 1565
Over 40 years before the English colonists established their first permanent settlement, the Spanish had already built theirs. St. Augustine was the landing spot of famous European explorer, Ponce de Leon, in 1513, as part of his search for the Fountain of Youth. However, settlers did not move into the land until 1565. It is the oldest official city in the entire country and has the lowest population of any city on this list with only 14,000 people.
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