Some of America’s oldest continuously occupied settlements have evolved into booming cities that continue to grow, while others have seen their heyday pass but still retain their history and charm. Many of the country’s earliest towns once functioned as trading hubs, military installations, or regional centers of power for colonial governments. (These are American towns founded before the American revolution.)
Not surprisingly, most of our oldest municipalities, dating from the 17th century, are in the Northeast, where the English and the Dutch first established their communities — though the oldest of all is St. Augustine, founded by the Spanish in Florida in 1565. By international standards, of course, that isn’t very old. By way of comparison, consider the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
In assembling our list of each state’s oldest town, we drew on numerous sources, including Britannica, ThoughtCo, Smithsonian Magazine, Oldest, Only in Your State, World Atlas, Travel Channel, and Insider, and verified founding dates and other historical data through official city and state websites.
We included only towns, cities, census-designated places, and listed only those which have existed continuously as residential and business communities since they were first established. We did not include Native American settlements, most of which are of course much older than those founded by Europeans. Even within these parameters, making definitive assessments of a town’s age can be difficult. Should it be judged by the date of its founding, settlement, incorporation?
In most cases, we have chosen the year in which a permanent settlement was first established on the site of what has become a modern city or even just sustained itself as a small hamlet. There are inevitably disputes between towns over who was really first (at least three Vermont communities, for instance, claim the title), but the places on this list are most likely indeed the oldest.