Identifying the oldest building in all 50 states is surprisingly tricky. First, you need to determine what constitutes a building – when is a ruin too far gone to count? Could an inhabited dwelling within the natural landscape, say a cave, make the cut? Next, the degree of authenticity needs to be considered. If a building has been taken apart and put back together again, would that lead to its disqualification in your book? Similarly, if a newer structure has been erected on older foundations, which part is relevant? Would an older annex on the grounds of another building merit the accolade in its own right? Complicating things further, written records can be sketchy and improvements to dating technology can alter the pecking order.
The buildings that feature in this list are an eclectic bunch: adobe dwellings, stone forts, log cabins, timber-framed homes and historic missions just for starters. I’ll justify my choices, but will you agree with my conclusions on which are the oldest buildings in each of the 50 states?
Joel Eddins House
Joel Eddins House is the oldest building in Alabama. Built by Eddins in 1810, this two-story log cabin originally stood on a plot in Ardmore. But since 2007, it’s found a new home at Burritt on the Mountain living museum in Huntsville, having been painstakingly pulled apart and reassembled using the original timbers, though a 1930s addition wasn’t considered worthy of the move.
Kodiak History Museum
This historic building, thought to be haunted following a murder in 1886, used to be called the Baranov Museum, the Russian-American Magazin, and the Erskine House. The Russians built it around 1810 when Alaska was a Russian territory, and Kodiak was still called Pavlovsk. Originally, it was a warehouse, but later became a private home. Since 1967 it’s been the museum of the Kodiak Historical Society.
Mission San Xavier del Bac
Tucson’s Mission San Xavier del Bac is the state’s oldest building. Father Eusebio Kino arrived in 1692. Eight years on, he oversaw foundations for a place of worship, but that church was never built. In fact, it would be almost a century until the church we see today would stand on the spot, begun in 1783 and completed 14 years later. It became part of Mexico in 1821, but would rejoin the U.S. in 1854, making it the state’s oldest structure.
Hinderliter Grog Shop
Two historic homes within the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock lay claim to being the state’s oldest building. But though the Woodruff Print Shop was built first, in 1824, the structure you see today is a replica. So instead, the accolade goes to the Hinderliter Grog Shop, constructed from 1826-27 and run as a tavern. It hosted the last meeting of the territorial legislature which took place in 1835; Arkansas was admitted to the Union the following year.
Mission San Juan Capistrano
Founded in 1776, the Serra Chapel at Mission San Juan Capistrano is California’s oldest surviving building. Teams of indigenous Acjachemen, baptized as Catholics and known as “Juaneños,” were put to work constructing a chapel. The first mass in the finished building was celebrated in 1783. The magnificent golden altar is thought to be around 330 years older and came from Barcelona, but wasn’t installed in the chapel until the early 20th century.
Four Mile House
Four Mile House in Denver dates from 1859. Brothers Jonas and Samuel Brantner built this two-story home out of timber. A year later they sold it to a businesswoman called Mary Cawker who ran it as an inn, her eye on the wallets of travelers passing through on the Cherokee Trail on their way to seek gold in California.
Henry Whitfield House
Henry Whitfield House was erected in Guilford back in 1639, and just barely predates the town. As well as being the oldest building in Connecticut, it’s also the oldest stone house in this part of the U.S. It takes its name from the English puritan who commissioned it; he came to the New World in search of religious freedom.
The Block House
The Swedish were responsible for the oldest building in Delaware. The Block House was put up in 1654 in Naaman’s Creek, just 11 years before Ryves Holt House in Lewes which is the state’s oldest surviving home. The Block House would have originally been a defensive structure. The Dutch captured it in 1655; Native Americans attacked it in 1671 and the British grabbed it in 1777. Today you can visit it in Claymont adjacent to the Robinson House.
Saint Bernard de Clairvaux Church
If you’ll accept a contender that spent most of its life on the other side of the Atlantic, then Saint Bernard de Clairvaux Church is Florida’s oldest building. Construction commenced in Sacramenia, Spain in 1133. Almost eight centuries later, it was smuggled to New York by William Randolph Hearst in 11,000 packing crates, later finding its way to North Miami Beach. However, purists will no doubt prefer to award the honor of oldest building to Castillo de San Marcos in St Augustine, built in 1695 and also the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States.
Herb House, now part of Pirate’s House Restaurant in Savannah, was constructed in 1734. It would have originally housed the gardener who tended the adjacent plot of land in an experimental attempt to grow mulberry trees. Unfortunately, the project wasn’t a success, though they did manage to grow cotton. However, within 20 years the garden was redundant, and the house became a tavern.
The oldest surviving building in Hawaii had quite the journey to get there. Its timbers started life as white pine in Maine, cut to size in Boston. They were shipped around Cape Horn from Boston in 1820 on a brig, Thaddeus; the frame came 8 months later onboard another ship, Tartar. Originally it would have been a mission house, but now, it’s a museum.
Old Cataldo Mission
A Belgian Jesuit missionary called Pierre-Jean De Smet converted many of the indigenous Coeur d’Alene people to Catholicism. He arrived in Idaho from St. Louis, Missouri in the 1840s to choose the site for a mission. The first attempt proved susceptible to flooding, but in 1850, he passed the reins to Antonio Ravalli, an Italian Jesuit. The result was a beautiful wattle and daub church built without nails which remains Idaho’s oldest building.
Fort de Chartres
Though much of the Fort de Chartres is a reconstruction – only the foundations are authentic when it comes to many of its structures – the powder magazine building (pictured) is still intact, though heavily restored. It dates from the 1750s and therefore has a strong claim to be the oldest in Illinois. Three wooden forts predate the current stone one.
Indiana’s oldest city is Vincennes, founded in 1732, and it’s here that you’ll find the two oldest buildings in the state. Your pick will depend on whether you go by the date construction started, or when it was completed. Grouseland, constructed from 1802 to 1804, was built for William Henry Harrison, the first governor of the Indiana Territory. Just around the block, work began on the Indiana Territorial Capitol in 1800, and lasted until 1805.
Louis Arriandeaux Log House
Located on the site of the Mathias Ham House you’ll find an old timber cabin, the Louis Arriandeaux Log House. Both date from the 19th century, but it’s the log house which is the oldest, built in 1833 (perhaps even earlier as some sources date it to 1827). The cabin originally stood at the intersection of 2nd and Locust Streets in Dubuque as the home of pioneer settler William Newman before it was transported to its present location.
The oldest building you can visit in Kansas is Fort Leavenworth, the oldest active Army post west of the Mississippi. Colonel Henry Leavenworth was tasked with finding a site for a permanent settlement close to the confluence of the Missouri and Little Platte rivers. The fort, erected in 1827, would help to protect the Santa Fe Trail. Leavenworth realized that if he followed those instructions to the letter he and his men would be flooded out, so instead, he used his initiative and sited the fort upstream on higher ground.
Zachary Taylor House
Two buildings in Kentucky are thought to have been built c. 1790: the Zachary Taylor House and Locust Grove, both in Louisville, though some sources argue documentation for the latter dates it to 1792. Zachary Taylor House, also known as Springfield, was the house in which the 12th President of the United States grew up. Initially Zachary’s family lived in a modest log cabin but soon built themselves something a little grander. The Taylors regularly visited Locust Grove, a mile down the road, and you can too as it’s now a museum.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
Confusion abounds as to the early history of this historic building, now a bar on New Orleans’ Bourbon Street. Sources variously say it was built by Nicolas Touze from 1722 to 1732, for carpenter Bartholomie Robert sometime around 1773, or by Jean and Pierre Lafitte between 1772 and 1791, brothers who may or may not have been slave-owning privateers. But whatever its precise origin, it’s widely considered the oldest building in Louisiana.
William Whipple House
For a long time, it was thought that the McIntire Garrison House was built in 1645, making it the oldest building in the state of Maine. However, more recently, dating techniques have estimated that it wasn’t erected until around 1707. Therefore, a handful of other homes predate it, the oldest being the William Whipple house in Kittery, also a garrison home designed to protect its inhabitants from attack. Part of the building was constructed in 1660.
Brooke Place Manor
Dating from 1652, Brooke Place Manor in Williams Wharf was built by Governor Robert Brooke. Today, it’s plain to see that the building has been extended; there in the brick you can see the outline of the original roof. That extra story, plus some Greek Revival elements, were added in the 1840s.
Proven by dendrochronology testing to be the oldest timber-framed house in the US, Fairbanks House is also the oldest building in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Yorkshireman Jonathan Fairbanks came over from England in 1633, and three years later started work on the house which was finished in 1637. The farmhouse remained in the family for eight generations; these days it’s a historic house museum.
Located on Mackinac Island, the Officers’ Stone Quarters of Fort Mackinac dates from 1780, which makes it the oldest building in the state. Originally, the British built Michilimackinac Fort, but it proved too easy to access from the shore, and so they moved inland, constructing walls four feet thick to withstand attack. Today it’s one of 14 historic structures that comprise Mackinac Island State Park, a popular local tourist attraction.
Another state whose oldest building is a fort is Minnesota; you’ll find Fort Snelling at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Construction was completed in 1825, and the buildings have been restored to create a visitor experience that offers a fascinating window into the past. Stories of the indigenous Dakota and Ojibwe people, fur traders, immigrants, and of course the military bring the place to life.
Whether you call it the Old Spanish Fort, the Old French Fort, or LaPointe-Krebs House, one thing stays the same: it’s the oldest building in the state of Mississippi. It stands on land granted to the French-Canadian Joseph Simon dit la Pointe in Pascagoula and probably dates from about 1757, according to dendrochronology carried out on the structural timbers. Today it’s a museum, though it’s currently undergoing extensive renovation.
Louis Bolduc House
Ste. Genevieve sprang up on the bank of the Mississippi River in 1735, populated by French Canadian settlers and named after the patron saint of Paris. Walking tours of the town’s historic district visit many centuries-old timber-framed structures, the eldest of which is probably the Louis Bolduc House. The owner was a prominent merchant, miner and planter. Built about 1787 to replace an earlier home destroyed by a flood, it’s an example of what’s known as poteaux sur solle (posts-on-sill) construction.
A fur trader named Angus McDonald, a Scot who’d relocated to the US to seek fortune and adventure, completed Fort Connah in Mission Valley in 1847. Employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1838, he embraced his new life with enthusiasm, marrying a Nez Perce wife who bore him 12 children. Trade in buffalo meat, rawhide, and fur linked forts on both sides of the Rockies.
Bellevue Log Cabin
The Bellevue Log Cabin was built as part of the Jacob Astor Fur Trading Post between 1830 and 1835, which makes it the oldest building in Nebraska. Almost immediately, during a cholera outbreak, it was found to be too close to the river, and moved away from the water; in 1850 it was relocated a second time and has stayed in that spot ever since.
Old Mormon Fort
Ironically, for a city known for razing outdated casinos to the ground, Nevada’s oldest building is in Las Vegas. The Old Mormon Fort was the work of missionaries who came from Utah in 1855 to create an adobe fort containing eight two-story houses. Most had gone within a few years but the place remained the hub of a ranch for some time. Today you’ll find it in a state park located within the city.
Richard Jackson House
Richard Jackson House is the oldest surviving structure in the state of New Hampshire. This timber-framed house dates from 1664. The man who built it was a cooper who purchased the 25 acre plot and merged it with a similar-sized piece of adjoining land owned by his father-in-law. Jackson lived there with his family until his death in 1718. Visit it in Portsmouth from June to October.
C. A. Nothnagle Log House
The oldest building in New Jersey is a timber structure which was built around 1638. Located in Gibbstown in Gloucester County, immigrants from Scandinavia (most likely Finns) built it. The white oak building, which originally would have had a dirt floor, remains in private ownership, but can be visited by appointment.
The oldest building in the US by a huge margin is New Mexico’s Taos Pueblo. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is comprised of a group of ceremonial buildings and homes which date from between 1000 AD and 1450 AD. The walls are made of adobe, earth mixed with water and straw, while huge timbers known as vigas support the roof.
New York State’s oldest building is located in Brooklyn. The Wyckoff House, now a museum, dates from 1652. Pieter Claesen, who adopted the surname Wyckoff, came from the Netherlands 15 years earlier. He made a good living as a farmer and magistrate and built himself a modest farmhouse in what’s now East Flatbush. It became the first official New York City Landmark in 1965.
If you’re a fan of home renovation programs on TV, then you’ll know the joy that comes with the discovery of a vintage fireplace or even an old newspaper tucked into a wall cavity. But what if you stripped off some old paneling to reveal a house underneath that experts confirm to date from 1719? That’s what happened to the Lanes, a couple who bought a property in Edenton hoping to turn it into a rental, and got the surprise of their lives.
Gingras Trading Post
Several trading posts survive in the Walhalla area of North Dakota, a remnant of the fur trade which once flourished here. Norman W. Kittson and Antoine Blanc Gingras both built trading posts and each survives, but Gingras’ structure still stands on its original foundations. Both date from 1843.
Old Stone Fort
You’d be hard pushed to justify Ohio’s Old Stone Fort in Coshocton as a fort; it certainly wouldn’t take much to overcome a building of this size, though thick walls and narrow slits would help those trying to ward off an attack. But though its origins are uncertain, it’s definitely old. Possibly it dates to 1769, and could have been constructed by a French explorer called D’Iberville – that’s what the plaque on its wall says, in any case.
Though it’s not easy to figure out what the oldest building in Oklahoma might be, According to The Oklahoman, Fort Gibson is a strong contender. A military garrison was established there in 1824, though the oldest surviving building is likely to be the barracks which possibly dates from the 1840s.
Molalla Log House
A log house discovered long forgotten in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains is likely to be Oregon’s oldest building. Though its early life is more guesswork than historic fact, there’s a good chance that Canadian fur trappers constructed it in the 1790s. Now it’s been moved to Hopkins Demonstration Forest, where it’s painstakingly being restored.
Lower Swedish Cabin
Located on Darby Creek is a log cabin thought to date from 1640. A clue about who built it is in the name: Pennsylvania’s oldest building was the work of Swedish immigrants. It remained a private dwelling until 1937 when ownership passed to the town of Upper Darby. For many years it wasn’t well looked after, but in 1987 the cabin was finally restored.
White Horse Tavern
A charming clapboard structure is the oldest building in Rhode Island. The White Horse Tavern opened to customers in Newport in 1673. However, impressive though that is, the building was around a couple of decades before that, constructed as a two-story home for Francis Brinley. It’s still serving guests today: the restaurant serves shellfish caught in Narragansett Bay, and fresh local produce from the state’s farms.
In 1693, a Frenchman called Benjamin Simons took ownership of a tract of land that would become a thriving plantation. He finished work on the house in 1697, just as his wife gave birth to their fourth child, and set about making a living from timber, pine tar, turpentine, and beef cattle. Over time, as Simons’ family grew, so too did the house.
This fort, built in 1864, takes its current name from the Sisseton Indians. The army constructed it on the Coteau des Prairies, hills overlooking the flatter plains. As well as being easy to defend, there was a lake for drinking water and clay for making bricks. Visit the buildings today at the Fort Sisseton Historic State Park near Lake City.
The oldest building in Tennessee is a timber-framed mansion dating from about 1775; incidentally, it also became the first home in Tennessee to have glass windows. A man named John Carter came to the area in the early 1770s to set up a trading post to serve the area’s first settlers. He did well – or came from a wealthy background – because this was no simple log cabin, though it’s likely that his son enlarged the property when he inherited it. Much that you see today is authentic.
In contrast to the oldest buildings in some states, which have faded into obscurity, the Alamo is one of the most famous places in America. Originally the mission of San Antonio de Valero, it dates from 1718. Secularised in 1793, the buildings served as a political prison, hospital and garrison. It’s best known for the Battle of the Alamo in 1836; when the Alamo fell to the Mexicans led by Santa Anna, it galvanized Texan opposition, and paved the way for an independent Texas.
Fielding Garr Ranch
Utah’s first building, Fort Buenaventura, dated from 1845, but what you see today is a modern copy. To visit the state’s oldest structure you’ll need to travel instead to Antelope Island and the Fielding Garr Ranch. Constructed in 1848 by Mormon pioneers, the ranch house is thought to be the earliest surviving home on its original foundations in the state.
It’s hard to say precisely which of Vermont’s old houses was there first, but the Mooar-Wright home in Pownal is a strong contender. Many local historians can’t decide whether John Defoe put it up in the 1750s (the Pownal Historical Society refer to him as Jan DeVoet, a Dutchman) or Charles Wright did in 1762 or 1765. What they do agree on is that it wasn’t the work of anyone called Mooar, as they were the last family to live there, in the 1950s.
The tower of Jamestown Church is the only remnant of an original place of worship erected in 1639, but that qualifies it as the oldest building in Virginia. The church itself has been rebuilt or remodelled numerous times.
The oldest building in Washington State retains many of its 19th century timbers, but now stands on a different spot to where they were originally assembled. Fort Nisqually dates from 1833, once a fur trading post on Puget Sound that you’ll now find in Dupont. The granary is the earliest structure to survive, erected shortly after the Puget Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC) was established in 1839.
West Virginia’s oldest property is Aspen Hall, a Georgian mansion in historic Martinsburg. In 1745, it would have looked very different, just a simple limestone house measuring 20 feet square, which is a far cry from the much grander property we inherit today. It’s sometimes referred to as the Edward Beeson House after the man who owned it first.
Tank Cottage was built in Green Bay in 1776, making it the oldest surviving building in Wisconsin. The man responsible, a French Canadian fur trader named Joseph Roi, chose a site close to the opposite bank of the Fox River, though it was moved to its original spot in 1908. Roi used a technique known as pièce-sur-pièce à coulisse (post and plank) which was common in his homeland. 74 years later, a Norwegian missionary purchased it and covered it in clapboard.
Pushing the definition of oldest “building” to “building materials”, the Fossil Cabin uses dinosaur bones from nearby Como Bluff in its construction. The owner, Thomas Boylan, hoped to display an entire dinosaur skeleton as a means of attracting drivers to his gas station but his finds fell short so he built a cabin with them instead. If you disqualify the Fossil Cabin on the grounds that it didn’t exist before the 20th century, then Fort Laramie, built in 1849, is the conventional title-holder.