oldest buildings in america

8 Oldest Buildings in America

The first successful European colonies in America were established in the early 1600s and these early colonists built some of the oldest buildings in what would later become the United States of America. However, humans first arrived in America around 13,000 years ago, and their descendants built and still inhabit the oldest buildings in this country.

This list contains eight of the oldest buildings still standing in America, most of which date back to early colonial times, with a few going back thousands of years. All of them are still in use today, mostly as historical house museums.

8. Richard Sparrow House

 Date:  1640  
Location: Plymouth, Massachusetts
 Original Purpose: Residential home
 Still in use: Yes 

Richard Sparrow Housephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Richard Sparrow House is a historical house that dates back to around 1640 and is the oldest surviving house in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The house was built by Richard Sparrow as a home for his family after he was granted a house tract of six acres in 1636, which required him to build a home within four years.

Sparrow was a surveyor and by 1642, he added seven more tracts to the home’s original six acres. The house was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and is currently operated as a museum and art gallery.


7. Henry Whitfield House

 Date:  1639   
Location: Guilford, Connecticut
 Original Purpose: Residential home
 Still in use: Yes 

Henry Whitfield Housephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Henry Whitfield House was built in 1639 for Henry Whitfield, a Puritan minister who had come to the New World to flee religious persecution and was one of the founders of the town of Guilford. It is the oldest stone house in New England and the oldest surviving house in Connecticut. The house was used as a home for Henry and his wife and children and also served as a place of worship before an official church was built in Guilford.

The Henry Whitfield House was remodeled in 1868 and since 1899, its been open to the public as the Henry Whitfield State Museum, which is owned and operated by the State of Connecticut. The house was restored again in the early 1900s and today teaches the history of the English settlement of Connecticut and the coming together of the European and Native American cultures.


6. C. A. Nothnagle Log House

 Date:  c. 1638 – 1643    
Location: Gibbstown, New Jersey 
 Original Purpose: Residential home
 Still in use: Yes 

C. A. Nothnagle Log Housephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

C. A. Nothnagle Log House, also known as Braman-Nothnagle Log House, is one of the oldest surviving log cabins in the U.S. The house was built by Finnish settlers in the New Sweden colony of what is now New Jersey, sometime between 1638 – 1643. During the 18th century a large addition was added to the house and a wooden floor was added in around 1730.

The log house is privately owned by Doris and Harry Rink and open for tours by private appointment only. The Rinks have owned the cabin since 1968 and have restored it to near-original condition. Recently (June 2017), the house, which is a registered National Historic Site, was put up for sale for $2.9 million. The Rinks say that even after the house is sold, they will continue to take care of the house and give tours. 


5. Fairbanks House

 Date:  c. 1637 – 1641   
Location: Dedham, Massachusetts 
 Original Purpose: Residential home
 Still in use: Yes 

Fairbanks Housephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Fairbanks House is the oldest surviving timber-frame house in the U.S., which was built by Puritan settler Jonathan Fairbanks sometime between 1637 – 1641. Jonathan built the house for his wife Grace and their family and when he died in 1668, he left the house to his eldest son, John.

After that, the house was passed down through eight generations of the Fairbanks family until 1904 when Rebecca Fairbanks was the last person to live in the house. Upon Rebecca’s departure, the Fairbanks family members established the Fairbanks Family in America, Inc. to purchase the house and preserve it for future generations.

Today, the Fairbanks House is a historic house museum that is open to the public.


4. San Miguel Mission 

 Date: c. 1610 – 1626   
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
 Original Purpose:  Church
 Still in use: Yes 

San Miguel Missionphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The San Miguel Mission, also called the San Miguel Chapel, is believed to be the oldest church structure built in the U.S. Although it is hard to pinpoint the exact date when the church was built, the earliest documentation mentioning the church dates back to 1628 – this means that the San Miguel Mission was built prior to that time.

The city of Santa Fe was established in 1610 and according to oral history, the church was built around the same time. Since then, the church has been rebuilt and restored several times as it was destroyed during the mid to late 1600s, however, the building still retains its original adobe walls.

The San Miguel Mission is still open during the week for prayers and visitors and mass is held on Sundays.  


3. Palace of the Governors 

 Date:  1610 
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
 Original Purpose:  Government building
 Still in use: Yes 


Palace-of-the-Governorsphoto source:  Wikimedia Commons

Palace-of-the-Governorsphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Palace of the Governors is the oldest seat of colonial government (Spanish) and is the oldest continuously occupied public building in the U.S. The Palace was built for Pedro de Peralta, who founded the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico and was the governor of the Spanish territory in what is now the American Southwest.

Throughout Spain’s control over the region, the Palace served as the Spanish seat of government and when New Mexico was annexed as a U.S. territory, the Palace became New Mexico’s first territorial capital. The Palace was declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1960 and today serves as New Mexico’s state history museum.


2. Acoma Pueblo 

 Date: c. 1000 AD – 1200 AD
Location: Cibola County (west of Albuquerque), New Mexico 
 Original Purpose:  Residential 
 Still in use: Yes 

Acoma Pueblophoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Acoma Pueblo is made up of three villages: Sky City (Old Acoma), Acomita, and Mcartys. Although no one knows for sure how old the Acoma community is, archaeologists agree that the Pueblo has been continuously occupied since at least 1200 AD. At one point, the land that the Acoma Pueblo was on totaled about 5,000,000 acres, but the today, the Acoma tribe only retains about 10% percent of this land, forming the Acoma Indian Reservation.

There are around 5,000 Acoma tribal members living in the Pueblo today, which is a U.S. National Historic Landmark.  


1. Taos Pueblo

 Date: c.1000 AD – 1450 AD
Location: North of the modern city of Taos, New Mexico
 Original Purpose:  Residential 
 Still in use: Yes 

Acoma Pueblophoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Taos Pueblo isn’t a singular building, but a group of ancient homes and ceremonial buildings that were built by a Tiwa-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people. According to the people who still inhabit the Taos Pueblo, the main part of the existing structures was built between 1000 AD and 1450 AD. The Pueblo is made entirely of adobe (earth mixed with water and straw, then either poured into forms or made into sun-dried bricks) and remains mostly unchanged since it was first built.

The Taos Pueblo, officially called Pueblo de Taos, was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 and was declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1960. The Pueblo is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. 


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