Oldest Building in Each U.S. State
August 7, 2018 9:15 AM   Subscribe

 
Aww, it's nice to see an old friend on there, the Louis Bolduc House. My dad is from Sainte Genevieve and I spent a lot of summer days running around town. It's an important architectural spot but I think it's been threatened a few times by changes in ownership, money troubles, etc.
posted by PussKillian at 9:37 AM on August 7


I don't think there's any evidence, beyond the claim on their website, that Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop in New Orleans is older than the 1770s. 1720s is a stretch. The oldest building in the city, and therefore the state, is likely the nearby Old Ursuline Convent (1740s I think). A lot of the quarter went up in flames in 1788 and again in 1794. Urban planning dork signing out.
posted by gordie at 9:37 AM on August 7 [18 favorites]


Thanks gordie. I was very skeptical about that being the oldest building for a number of reasons.
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:51 AM on August 7


I'm kind of shocked at a few of these. I'm really happy to see the Taos Pueblo listed, but surely there are aboriginal structures that predate a lot of these in other states.

Also, I'm going to an event at Locust Grove in Kentucky in a few weeks. (Sarah Vowell speaking at a place Lafayette actually visited! GeekMode++)
posted by DigDoug at 9:53 AM on August 7 [6 favorites]


In my later childhood, my family lived in a suburban-Philadelphia house that had been built in 1690, which really put the zap on my head. The panes of glass in all the upper-storey windows had pooled at the bottom, the upper floors and stairways were built for people who were much smaller in stature than contemporary Americans (good nutrition having given us a little length of bone and so on). It felt...I dunno, medieval, I guess, more closely akin to the half-timbered, wonky Mermaid Inn than it was to any of the smart brick 1750s townhouses that line the residential streets of Center City.

Imagine my surprise to learn here that the oldest extant building in Pennsylvania is a full half-century older than that. Now that's a mindfuck, especially that I now live a block away from the duly celebrated oldest surviving terraced houses in London, which are a decade and a half younger.
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:10 AM on August 7 [2 favorites]


Happy they remembered to include indigenous peoples' buildings.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:19 AM on August 7 [5 favorites]


This was fun, thanks for posting.

While trying to figure out how old the Castillo de San Marco actually is (it was completed in 1695, so a little younger than the date given in this list, which was the year construction began), I came across this article about Prince Achille Murat, who was apparently a paradigmatic Floridian all the way back in the 1820s.
posted by saladin at 10:29 AM on August 7


The oldest building I've ever worked in was built in the late-1700s. A little kid from the time carved his name in the bannister.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:38 AM on August 7 [3 favorites]


adamgreenfield: The Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware examples all have in common that they are from New Sweden, which everyone forgets about.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:40 AM on August 7 [5 favorites]


As a descendant of one of the initial settlers of Guilford, CT I hadn't realized that little town has the oldest surviving building in the state! That's pretty cool.
posted by meinvt at 10:43 AM on August 7


Interesting link. But disappointed overall at the lack of info. Not even a city on most of the buildings shown.
posted by hydra77 at 10:55 AM on August 7 [7 favorites]


I'm really happy to see the Taos Pueblo listed, but surely there are aboriginal structures that predate a lot of these in other states.

I assume that whatever definition they're using for "intact" excluded those.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:36 AM on August 7


tobascodagama: I assume that whatever definition they're using for "intact" excluded those.

This Wikipedia list of the oldest buildings in the United States only includes Ancestral Puebloan communities in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah, then specifically calls out one abandoned site (Chaco Canyon) and two pueblos that are still inhabited to this day (Taos and Acoma).

Then there's "The Oldest House" in Santa Fe, which claims to be the oldest house in the United States, but because it has been modified in the past centuries, it's hard to tell how old it really is. Still, it's not as old as the Pueblos.

And to extend to the rest of North America, here's Wikipedia's List of oldest buildings in Canada and for much older buildings, here is the List of oldest structures in Mexico City (there's no page for Mexico as a whole country, it seems).

I don't know enough of native and first nation history, but it seems like Europeans wiped out a lot of structures, except in the Four Corner states, particularly New Mexico. Here's to Popé's Rebellion, an uprising of most of the indigenous Pueblo people against the Spanish colonizers in the province of Santa Fe de Nuevo México. The Pueblo Revolt killed 400 Spanish and drove the remaining 2,000 settlers out of the province. Twelve years later the Spanish returned and were able to reoccupy New Mexico with little opposition, but 19 Pueblos remain to this day.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:19 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


Not surprised the round tower at Fort Snelling is the oldest in Minnesota. A little surprised they neglected to mention is was part of a concentration camp.
posted by maxsparber at 12:31 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


I am confused as to why they depict the Round Tower as square.
posted by soelo at 1:02 PM on August 7


madcaptenor, I was about to comment on that -- that I may have at some point in my life known there was an actual Swedish-ruled colony in the US, but if I did it had entirely vanished from memory.
posted by tavella at 1:42 PM on August 7


Pretty sure they're wrong for my state unless they're using weird criteria about additions or later changes or something.
posted by dilettante at 2:01 PM on August 7


Looks like y'all may have just missed out on the opportunity to own the oldest structure in West Virginia.
posted by drlith at 2:13 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


all the upper-storey windows had pooled at the bottom

Pane glass back then were made pre-roller technology so was naturally uneven. Glaziers consistently chose to install the panes with the thicker side down. Glass is an amorphous solid, but gravity isn't strong enough to deform vertical panes over the span of a few hundred years.

the upper floors and stairways were built for people who were much smaller in stature than contemporary Americans

This, though, absolutely.
posted by porpoise at 3:09 PM on August 7 [4 favorites]


Fun story about St. Augustine's Castillo de San Marcos: It's made of coquina, a rock so soft you can practically crumble it by hand when it's freshly cut. The story goes that during British shelling of the fort, the rock proved so soft their cannonballs would sink into it rather than shattering the rock. The Spanish then allegedly scrambled out during lulls, prized them free, and shot them back.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 3:32 PM on August 7 [5 favorites]


Found that fascinating but mostly because of the incidental details. What was the Utah war? The Mullan Road?

However, I went to a pub from 1368 a couple of weeks ago (I'm from England).
posted by BigCalm at 3:34 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


My house is older than the oldest house in South Dakota... other than that... these make my house feel positively youthful and spritely.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:50 PM on August 7


My ancestor built the Fairbanks House in Massachusetts. My maternal grandmother was Norma Fairbanks. Family history.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:11 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


I wouldn’t have remembered there was a Swedish colony except that my parents live in Swedesboro, New Jersey.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:17 PM on August 7


I'm really happy to see the Taos Pueblo listed, but surely there are aboriginal structures that predate a lot of these in other states.

The article gives a Spanish colonial mission in Tucson as the oldest structure in Arizona, I would think that intact/inhabited Native American construction in Arizona predates this building.

The oldest construction at Wupatki Pueblo (NPS site, Wiki) likely predates the 12th Century. In the 1940s, National Park Service rangers lived in a second-floor apartment in Wupatki Pueblo, complete with many modern conveniences. (Modern additions have since been removed, and changes in management and preservation philosophy rule out similar future habitation.)

Montezuma Castle National Monument (NPS site, Wiki) is also very old. It is a well-preserved five-story structure that probably dates back to the 1100s. The name is a misnomer; the site was constructed by the Sinagua people. Until the 1950s, the Park Service used to let visitors tour the inside of the structure. That is no longer allowed; but the upshot is that visitors can now see a super-awesome diorama.

The Hopi village of Oraibi in Arizona has been continuously inhabited since the Eleventh Century. I suspect that intact structures there predate any Spanish presence in the state.

Any Spanish colonial construction is pretty new compared to the oldest surviving Native American structures in Arizona. Most of Arizona was claimed as Spanish or Mexican territory for over 300 years. It has only been US territory for 170 years. The state itself was admitted to the Union in 1912. Arizona is now home to about seven million residents, mostly housed in construction with a median age of just over 20 years old. Our water comes mostly from a river that no longer reaches the sea.

Our present course is unsustainable.
posted by compartment at 7:21 PM on August 7 [4 favorites]


I keep thinking of the Eddie Izzard routine about being from Europe (where the history comes from) and being amazed at the age of buildings in the US.
"Some of these houses are over 50 years old!"
"No! Surely not, nooooo! Nobody could have been alive then!"
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:38 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


I remember hearing Bill Bryson point out that the UK has more medieval churches than petrol stations. Which is one of those facts which is superficially startling but actually… yeah, that sounds about right.

Interesting article, thanks for posting.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:39 AM on August 8


my home state on nm has the top 3...
posted by judson at 8:12 AM on August 8


The Pueblo Revolt killed 400 Spanish and drove the remaining 2,000 settlers out of the province. Twelve years later the Spanish returned and were able to reoccupy New Mexico with little opposition...
filthy light thief, my favorite part of that rebellion was that the Hopi (the only tribe not re-invaded by the Spanish) took down the church on First Mesa and threw the stones and timbers off the mesa! That may have served to dissuade the Spanish, whereas in many other pueblos, the Catholic church still stood (but re-purposed), so easy to say "but look, you kept our church!".
posted by dbmcd at 1:26 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


The one in Oregon has been moved and therefore has lost its historic context. That bums me out.
posted by vespabelle at 9:58 PM on August 8


« Older How an Indigenous Chef Is Decolonizing Canadian...   |   I’m fuckin’ angry, man. Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.