23 Fun Facts About The Oldest Building In America

13 mins read
old sites
By bigweasel/Flickr. Copyright 2022.

Ever wondered about the oldest building in America? This article provides a list of the oldest buildings in America, spread across its different states.

Origin of Buildings in America

The Oldest Buildings in America were constructed between the 12th – 15th century, from New Mexico structures to when European colonies settled in America.

These can be divided according to the architectural type like Colonial, Spanish Colonial, New England Colonial, Quebec Style, and Southern Colonial.

The diverse styles emerged due to different immigrants settling in their new homeland, employing raw materials like stone and bricks to construct buildings.

Let us look at some of the earliest examples.

1) Which is the Oldest Building in America?

Despite using simple construction materials to make some of the oldest buildings in America, they were quite innovative and environmentally friendly.

Here are some fascinating facts about the oldest building in America

1.1) Taos Pueblo

oldest building in America
By graham/Flickr. Copyright 2022.

Located to the north of the modern city Taos, New Mexico – Taos Pueblo was probably constructed around c. 1000 – 1450 A.D. (Source: Oldest.org)

1.1.1) Building Purpose

Taos Pueblo isn’t a single building but a group of ceremonial and ancient buildings constructed by the Native American Tribe of Puebloan people.

Local sources suggest the main existing structures of the building were built around the period mentioned above.

1.1.2) Why is it popular?

Did you know that Taos Pueblo or Pueblo De Taos is a UNESCO world heritage site (1992) and a U.S. National historic landmark (1960)?

Materials used

The buildings are made of Adobe (a mix of earth, water, and straw, converted into sun-dried bricks); these structures remain unchanged.

The interesting fact is: the building is preserved due to the efforts of the residents living there, who constantly replaster the Adobe materials used.

1.1.3) Current issues

The residents (Native Americans) are also one of the oldest inhabited communities living in the country.

Despite their efforts to maintain the older village structures, modernity and environmental stress pose a risk to preserving these structures. To know more, click here.

1.2) Acoma Pueblo

oldest building in America
By Kenneth Cole Schneider/Flickr. Copyright 2022.

Located at Cibola County, West of Albuquerque, New Mexico – Acoma Pueblo consists of three villages: Acomita, Sky City, and McCarty’s, occupied since 1200 AD (Source: Oldest.org).

1.2.1) What are the villages known for?

Among the oldest inhabited communities of the country, accessing these villages was difficult due to the Defensive structures built to keep away the raiders.

Interestingly, the word ‘Acoma’ might come from the word ‘Haaku’ (preparation). This explains the defensive positions.

Acoma Pueblo may be one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in North America.

The Sky City Cultural Center and Haaku Museum currently house some ancient remains: like Pueblo pottery (a distinct type is a thin-walled kind, found all over).

The current residents take care of the San Estevan del Rey Mission (1640) and the Pueblo villages, registered National Historic Landmarks.

1.2.2) Current Condition

What used to be a considerable establishment now consists of fewer tribal members (around 50); the rest live around Acomita and McCarty (3,000).

Modernity has led to many developments in the site, like the Sky City RV Park, which includes many attractive tourist amenities. Click here if you are interested in visiting. ‘

1.3) Palace of the governors

Santa fe
By Los Alamos National Laboratory/Flickr. Copyright 2022.

Located in Santa Fe, New Mexico – the Palace of the Governors was built in 1610 as a government building.

1.3.1) Why is it popular?

The Palace of the governors is the oldest building in America in two aspects: The oldest seat of the Spanish colonial Government and the Oldest Occupied Public Building.

Once New Mexico became a U.S. Territory, the Palace of the governors became the state’s First Territorial capital.

Palace was named a National historic landmark in 1960 and a National Treasure (labeled by the National Treasure of Historic Landmark).

This is owing to its historical importance with connections to the Pueblo revolt (17th century), American settlement (19th – 20th century), and Statehood of New Mexico (21st century).

1.3.2) Current Purpose

Today, the palace is an important location as the New Mexico history museum, preserving its historic character and providing attractions to tourists like handmade jewelry.

1.4) San Miguel mission

oldest church
By Terence Faircloth/Flickr. Copyright 2022.

Located in Santa Fe, New Mexico: The San Miguel Mission is a church built during c. 1610 – 1626.

1.4.1) Why is it popular?

The San Miguel mission or San Miguel Chapel is the oldest building in America, among church structures. Some of the earliest documentation go to back to 1628.

The Church was built around the same time when the City of Santa Fe was established (161o).

Apart from the built initially remains – adobe walls, the rest of the structure was reconstructed since it was destroyed in the 17th century (Pueblo Revolt).

Its authenticity is based on oral records, as the revolt destroyed all the original documents.

1.4.2) Diverse Purposes of the Church

Since its inception, this building has played multiple purposes historically:

1) a place of worship,

2) an infirmary,

3) a military chapel,

4) A place to conduct talks and other celebrations,

5) A target during the revolt for autocratic officials.

1.4.3) Current Purpose

San Miguel’s mission has an identity built by the stories of the local communities residing there, with discovery stories still coming up.

Currently, it stands as a church that conducts prayers every week and holds Sunday Mass. To know more, click here.

1.5) Fairbanks House

fairbanks house
By Elizabeth Thomsen/Flickr. Copyright 2022.

Located at Dedham, Massachusetts: Fairbanks house was built c. 1637 – 1641 by the Puritan Settler Jonathan Fairbanks.

1.5.1) Why is it popular?

Fairbanks House is the oldest building in America, specifically the oldest continuously standing wooden structure in North America, built by the founder for his family.

The tradition of the Fairbanks house goes back to 8 generations when in 1904, Rebecca Fairbanks was the last to reside here.

This structure is remarkable as no other contemporary house stands well preserved in its current condition.

1.5.2) Current purpose

The Fairbanks house stands as a historic house museum, established by the Fairbanks Family in America Inc., open to public viewing.

1.6) Nothnagle Log House

By common.wikimedia.org/Copyright 2022.

Located in Gibbstown, New Jersey – the Nothnagle log house was built during the 17th century (c. 1638 – 1643).

1.6.1) Why is it popular?

C.A. or Braman Nothnagle log house is one of the oldest log cabins in the country, built by Finish Settlers of New Sweden colony (New Jersey).

It is also the oldest building in America or New Jersey, built with oak logs.

1.6.2) Current Purpose

The current owners of the Nothnagle log house took care of all the restoration works and have been giving tours since they got married in 1973.

Here’s the catch, though – The Nothnagle log house, also named a national historic Site (2017), was put up for sale, but the owners still want to continue giving tours and take care of it.

1.7) Henry Whitfield House

stone house
By Dave Olsen/Flickr. Copyright 2022.

Located in Guilford, Connecticut, Henry Whitfield’s house was built in 1639 by Puritan Minister Henry Whitfield. He was also one of the founders of Guilford.

1.7.1) Why is it popular?

Henry Whitfield House is the oldest building in America, specifically the first stone house built in New England.

It is also the oldest building in America, the only surviving house in Connecticut. The historical significance of the house – it is considered one of the four stone houses of the colonial settlements, built of local granite.

The restoration works conducted in Henry Whitfield House make it an important example of Colonial Revival Restoration Works, thus a National Historic Landmark.

It also stands as a historical reminder of the European Settler Colonialism (the 1600s) and Colonial Revival Era (1800-1900s). This stands as the merger of Native American and European Cultures.

1.7.2) Current Purpose

Initially a residence for Henry and his family, it later served as a place of worship.

In 1900, it was owned by the State of Connecticut, making it a public museum, and the site is also a State Archaeological Preserve.

1.8) Richard Sparrow House

By Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism/Flickr. Copyright 2022.

Located in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Richard Sparrow’s house was built in 1640 by Richard Sparrow for his family.

It is a particular house as he built it within four years (part of the house tract of six acres in 1636).

1.8.1) Why is it popular?

Richard Sparrow House is the oldest building in America, specifically the first surviving house in Plymouth. It was also added to the National Register of Historic places in 1974. It currently acts as a museum and gallery.

1.9) Lower Swedish Cabin

lower swedish cabin
By Jukie Bot/Flickr. Copyright 2022.

Located in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania – Lower Swedish Cabin was built between 1640 – 50 as a private residence by the immigrants of the New Sweden colony/

1.9.1) Why is it popular?

Lower Swedish Cabin is the oldest building in America, specifically Pennsylvania, added to the National Register of Historic Places around the 1980s.

It is also the oldest building in America, as the only log cabins built by the American Swedish Settlers.

It has had multiple uses throughout time: from a trading post for the Swedish settlers to a place of residence and a famous set for early motion pictures.

The Cabin was fully restored in 1987 and stood as proof of the existence of American Settlers.

1.10) Richard Jackson House

Located in New Hampshire, Portsmouth – Richard Jackson House was built in 1664, by Richard Jackson – farmer, mariner, and woodworker, for his family.

1.10.1) Why is it popular?

It is the oldest building in America, specifically the first surviving wood-frame house in New Hampshire, constructed with sawn lumber.

The architecture of the house reflects two traditions – the English timber frame and American innovation in the partitions and vertical planks.

The Succeeding generations made further additions to the built initially structure in 1715.

1.10.2) Current Purpose

With William Summer Appleton’s effort (Historic New England’s founder), the house retains much of its 17th-century appearance.

1.11) Ryves Holt House

holt house
By commons.wikimedia.org/Copyright 2022.

Located in Lewes, Delaware – Ryes Holt House was built in 1665 by Dutch Settlers.

1.11.1) Why is it popular?

Ryves holt house is the oldest building in America or one of the most senior homes in Delaware that fall among the few buildings which survived Lord Baltimore’s Raid in 1673.

An interesting fact about one of its owners is that in 1723 – the house was purchased by Ryves holt (its namesake), who was also the first Chief Justice of Delaware.

To know more about the current status of the house, click here.

1.12) Castillo de San Marcos

Located in St. Augustine, Florida – the Castillo de San Marcos was built between 1672 – 1695. It was built by the Spanish to defend the Atlantic Trade Route.

1.12.1) Why is it popular?

The Castillo De San Marcos is the oldest building in America, specifically the first masonry fortress in the country and the only remaining 17th-century military structure.

Labeled as a National Monument, it is also the oldest building in America regarding the first structure in St. Augustine.

It was built with rare construction materials like coquina and a semi-rare porous limestone, fire-resistant. This prevented the British forces from taking over the Fort.

Castillo de San Marcos was labeled a National Monument in 1924.

1.12.2) Present Use

The Fort hosts daily programs displaying weaponry demonstrations and cannon firings, offered on paid tours. Click here to know more.

1.13) White Horse Tavern

white horse tavern
By Wally Gobetz/Flickr. Copyright 2022.

Located in Newport, Rhode Island – the White Horse Tavern was completed in 1673.

1.13.1) Why is it popular?

White horse tavern is the oldest building in America, specifically the first Bar, known for its colonial roots. It is also the 10th oldest in the whole world.

It stands as a prime example of 17th century American Architecture with the giant beams, tiny front hallway, small stairway, and cavernous fireplaces.

The White horse tavern became a National Historical Landmark (1972) and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Nearby this also lies another Oldest building in America, specifically a surviving house of worship in Rhode Island – Great Friends Meeting House. To know more, click here.

1.13.2) Current Purpose

With a mix of local and world cuisine, with wine pairings worldwide, today, the restaurant serves customers with oil lamps and candles. Click here to know more.

1.14) Old Stone Fort

Located in West Lafayette, Ohio, the Old Stone Fort was constructed between 1679 – 1689. The owner is either a British fur trade, a farmer, or the French Canadian explorer Pierre Le Moyne D’Iberville.

1.14.1) Why is it popular?

Historians claim it is the oldest building in America, specifically the first existing building to the west of Appalachians.

Despite its mysterious origin, the fort stands restored by the Coshocton County Historical Society.

1.14.2) Current Condition

At present, due to obscure ownership issues, with the Coshocton County Archaeological and Historical Society closing up in 1982, questions regarding preserving its authenticity have been raised.

In 2021, the debate continued with local agencies trying to acquire and protect the building.

1.15) Old Trinity Church

Located in Church Creek, Maryland – Old Trinity church was established in 1692.

1.15.1) Why is it popular?

Since the American Revolution, it has been an Anglican Church and a ‘Protestant Episcopal’ congregation.

The Church’s cemetery contains graves of the revolutionary war heroes. It continues to be used as a burial ground, with conservation efforts in mind.

Old Trinity church is also a hub for community gatherings, as the South Dorchester Good Neighbor Project helps them mingle with one another.

1.15.2) Current Condition

Maryland Senator George Radcliffe has tried to restore the buildings to the English settler’s originality in the 20th century.

The Church is still operational; click here to contact them and know more about this historic structure.

1.16) Middleburg Plantation

Located in Berkeley County, South Carolina – Middleburg Plantation, dates to 1699, built by a French Huguenot planter – Benjamin Simons.

1.16.1) Why is it popular?

It is privately owned one of the oldest wooden plantation houses in South Carolina.

A mystery surrounding the house is it was burned by the British Colonel Banastre Tarleton, during the American Revolution, for unknown reasons.

It was declared a National historic landmark in 1970 and houses the Department of Archives and History of South Carolina.

1.17) Gonzalez – Alvarez House

alvarez house
By Jared/Flickr. Copyright 2022.

Located in St. Augustine, Florida – The Gonzalez – Alvarez House is dated 1723.

1.17.1) Why is it popular?

Another term used to refer to this structure is the ‘Oldest House’ in America, back in 1892. It is the oldest building in America, specifically the only surviving Spanish Colonial Dwelling in the area.

It reflects both the Spanish Colonial Architecture and English influence made by consequent owners.

1.17.2) Current Use

It is currently open for public viewing as part of another oldest building in America, specifically the museum complex of St. Augustine Historical Society.

1.18) Old Stone House

old stone house
By lulun & kame/Flickr. Copyright 2022.

Located in Georgetown, Washington DC, The Old stone house was built in c. 1765 in the then British Colony of Maryland.

1.18.1) Why is it popular?

The Old Stone House is the oldest building in America, specifically in Washington D.C., withholding its original foundation. It was privately owned till 1953, when the federal government purchased it due to its historical importance.

Old Stone House owners were both men and women, with evidence of slavery practiced by them!

1.18.2) Current Status

The Rock Creek Park administers Old Stone house and other sites under the National Register of Historic Places. The public made attempts to preserve its authenticity.

1.19) Mission San Juan Capistrano

By Don Graham/Flickr. Copyright 2022.

Located in San Juan Capistrano, California – Mission San Juan Capistrano was established in 1776 by a Franciscan Missionary – Junipero Serra.

1.19.1) Why is it popular?

Mission San Juan Capistrano is considered a Birthplace of Orange County and a historic landmark and museum.

It stands as the monument depicting California’s multi-cultural history (from Native American, Mexican, to European Heritage).

It has a fascinating history: from a center of religious revolt to being abolished and sold once Mexico won independence, then repurposed as a private ranch residence returning to the Catholic Church. Click here to read in detail.

Although built, as the 7th, of the 21 California Missions statewide, it is the ‘Jewel of the California Missions’ calling upon many visitors even today.

1.20) Louis Bolduc House

bolduc house
By David Abercrombie/Flickr. Copyright 2022.

Located in Sainte Genevieve, Missouri, The Louis Bolduc house was constructed around 1792 as the residence of a French Canadian miner, merchant, and planter- Bolduc.

1.20.1) Why is it popular?

Not only is it located in Missouri’s oldest permanent European Settlement – but it is also the oldest building in America, or specifically the state.

It is an outstanding example of poteaux – our – sole or posts on sill construction (a type of timber framing) and vertical log construction.

1.20.2.) Current Status

The house is currently monitored by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America.

1.21) Joel Eddins house

Located in Huntsville, Alabama, Joel Eddins House was built around the 1800s and stands as a prime example of house construction in the 19th century.

1.21.1) Why is it popular?

It is the oldest building in America, specifically the first documented building in Alabama; the construction materials used to push it back even more.

It was listed under the National Register of Historic Places (1906), acquired by the Historical Park in 2007.

This ‘hall and parlor’ log cabin is in a living museum – ‘Burritt on the Mountain.’

1.23) Molalla Log House

Located in South Molalla, Oregon – the Molalla log house was built around c. 18th century; it was located in some unknown place, moved in 1892, and then discovered by historians in 1984.

1.23.1) Why is it popular?

The Molalla log house is one of the oldest dwellings in Oregon, with exquisite craftmanship of hand-hewn logs.

Historians speculate it is a product of skilled craftsmen enlisted by a Canadian or American Fur Company despite its unknown origins. To know more about its origin, click here.

The rare design of the log house also led it to be designated as the ‘Clackamas County Historic Landmark’ around the 1990s.

1.23.2) Current Status

The log house is being maintained with the funds of the Kinsman Foundation and the efforts of the Hopkins Demonstration forest.

2) Other Oldest Buildings in America

Although the list above has covered some of the oldest buildings in the many American States, there are more of which a glimpse is provided below:

2.1) Fort Mackinac

Located in Mackinac Island, Michigan – the fort was built in 1780 and is one of the oldest surviving buildings of the state.

The Officers Stone Quarters is another oldest building in America, specifically part of the Fort, previously under British and American Control. To know more, click here. 

2.2) Baranov Museum

Located in Kodiak, Alaska – The Baranov or Kodiak history museum was built around the 1800s as a warehouse.

It is not only the oldest building in America, specifically the state, but it was also a murder site. Click here to know more about the incident that occurred here. 

2.3) Louis Arriandeaux log house

Situated in Dubuque, Iowa – this log house, built around the 1800s, is the oldest building in America, or the first structure of the state, home to the settler William Newman.

The interesting aspect is – the log house could predate the State. Click here to learn more about this oldest building.

2.4) Fort Laramie

Located in Goshen, Wyoming, Fort Laramie was built in 1834, by Robert Campbell and William Sublette, as a private Fur Trading Fort.

Fort Laramie falls under Wyoming’s oldest standing military system with existing structures like the Old Bedlam (built-in 1849). To know more, click here.

2.5) Old Mormon Fort

Located in Las Vegas, Nevada – the Old Mormon fort was built in the 1800s as the first permanent structure of Las Vegas by Mormon missionaries.

It is an essential structure in terms of preserving the originality of the famous place of Las Vegas. Click here to know more.

Want to know more about the oldest building of every state in the country? Click here for the entire list.

Also check out Why is New York Called the Big Apple?

If you liked this article, check out other interesting facts about the American States here. 

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