Oldest Cities in the United States

From Saint Augustine, Florida to Charleston, Massachusetts

Saint Augustine, Florida
Saint Augustine, Florida is the oldest city in the United States. Danita Delimont / Getty Images

It's a common misconception that cities in the United States were formed after the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 but in reality, America's first city of Saint Augustine, Florida was founded all the way back in 1565!

Since Saint Augustine's founding in 1565, over 20 major United States cities were formed before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, most of which remain continuously inhabited to this day.

However, the United States was initially made up of the original 13 colonies, which were all established by 1733, and now, the United States is the third largest country in the world based on its land area, totaling 3,794,100 square miles (9,826,675 square kilometers). It also has a population of 313,232,044 people (July 2011 estimate) and is divided into 50 states and hundreds of different cities. 

A List of the Oldest Cities and Their Founding Dates

As more and more Europeans immigrated to the newly discovered Americas, populations began to concentrate near coastal access ports and river mouths, fertile areas ripe for not only farming but shipping domestic goods back to Europe. The following list details the 10 oldest cities that formed because of this influx of newcomers.

  1. 1565: Saint Augustine, Florida
  2. 1607: Jamestown, Virginia
  3. 1607: Santa Fe, New Mexico
  4. 1610: Hampton, Virginia
  5. 1610: Kecoughtan, Virginia
  1. 1613: Newport News, Virginia
  2. 1614: Albany, New York
  3. 1617: Jersey City, New Jersey
  4. 1620: Plymouth, Massachusetts
  5. 1622: Weymouth, Massachusetts

Just shy of making this list, Dover, New Hampshire and Gloucester, Massachusetts were founded in 1623 and New Amsterdam, New York was founded 1625, but later renamed to New York City, which now serves as the economic and fashion capital of the United States.

Location, Location, Location

As you can see in the above list, many of America's first cities were founded on the Northeast seaboard, with Plymouth being the site of the Mayflower landing and Jamestown and Jersey City both serving as major ports for the young nation.

Even America's oldest city of Saint Augustine was founded on September 8, 1565, due to its proximity to the ocean after Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés discovered it only eleven days earlier on the feast day of St. Augustine, August 28. Saint Augustine has since served as the capital of Spanish Florida for over 200 years, the capital of British East Florida briefly, and now one of Florida's biggest ports.

Noticeably, many of the first cities were specifically established in Virginia, mostly due to the large number of people who were arriving into America via the port at Jamestown, named so for King James of England.

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Briney, Amanda. "Oldest Cities in the United States." ThoughtCo, Jun. 2, 2017, thoughtco.com/oldest-cities-in-the-united-states-1435739. Briney, Amanda. (2017, June 2). Oldest Cities in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/oldest-cities-in-the-united-states-1435739 Briney, Amanda. "Oldest Cities in the United States." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/oldest-cities-in-the-united-states-1435739 (accessed November 25, 2017).